Gemma Jittansingh-Mayers with her three children John Paul, 6, (left),...

Gemma Jittansingh-Mayers with her three children John Paul, 6, (left), 11 year-old Peter, (center) and Maya, 5, in Central Islip, struggle with poverty on Long Island. (May 7, 2012) Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

Nearly a million kids live in poverty in New York State -- a trend that began years before the recession hit, according to a survey measuring the well-being of the nation's children.

Children in the state living below the federal poverty line -- defined as $22,113 for a family of four -- rose from 865,000 in 2005 to 901,000 in 2010, according to the "Kids Count" report issued Wednesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The annual survey by the Baltimore child-advocacy group also found that the number of New York children living in households where no parent has a full-time, year-round job rose from 28 percent to 31 percent between 2008 and 2010, the last year data were available.

Those findings echoed the national trend, according to the survey.

"Stubbornly high unemployment and pervasive underemployment continues to threaten the financial status of middle-class families while creating deeper hardship for low-income families and communities," the report said. "The foreclosure crisis, which has already created residential instability for an estimated 5 to 6 million children, is far from over."

Out of the 50 states, New York ranked in the bottom half -- 32nd on economic indicators and 34th on family-related concerns. In areas of health and education, New York fared better, ranking 15th and 19th, respectively.

Gwen O'Shea, president and chief executive of the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island, wasn't surprised by the findings.

"New York is one of the wealthiest states in the country. . . . We should do a much better job in protecting and investing in our children who are our futures," she said. "This is not an impossibility, and it's not out of our reach. That's the most shameful part."

According to the 2010 American Community Survey, the child poverty rate on Long Island was 7.6 percent in Nassau and 7 percent in Suffolk. For black and Hispanic children on the Island, the poverty rate was 14.2 percent in Nassau and 15.8 percent in Suffolk.

Children living in poverty face hurdles that make it difficult to move up the economic ladder even in adulthood, O'Shea said. For example, poor children often have limited access to health care, making them more prone to illnesses and falling behind in school.

On Long Island, the problem with child poverty is even more dire than the Kids Count survey suggests, said Greg Blass, commissioner of the Suffolk Department of Social Services.

Due to the high cost of living on the Island, families earning less than $38,000 a year are considered impoverished. "It's hurting little kids who have nowhere to turn," he said.

In overall Kids Count rankings, New Hampshire was No. 1 while Mississippi came in last. New York was ranked No. 29.

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