PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Ocean State’s population is much more diverse than years past, which is why the state must address the disparities that are disproportionally impacting children of color, according to a recently-released report by Rhode Island KIDS COUNT.

The 2023 Rhode Island KIDS COUNT Factbook revealed that families of color are struggling with disparities in financial well-being, education, safety and health care. Those disparities, according to the report, can be traced back to historical and systemic racism.

“Racism became an economic tool infused into laws, policies and practices,” the report reads. “Substantial changes to these laws and policies did not occur until the late 1960s, and the harm continues to reverberate in the lives of children and families of color.”

The report notes that 15% of all Rhode Island children lived in poverty between 2017 and 2021, of which 76% were children of color.

“In Rhode Island between 2017 and 2021, Black and Hispanic children were about 16 and 13 times more likely, respectively, to live in high-poverty neighborhoods than non-Hispanic white children,” the report states.

Rhode Island’s lack of affordable housing has played a significant role in the well-being of children and families statewide. The report found that 280 families with 559 children stayed in a homeless or other emergency shelter last year.

“Unacceptable gaps continue to exist between children of color and white children,” Rhode Island KIDS COUNT Executive Director Paige Clausius-Parks said. “Rhode Island will not prosper if we continue to leave our children of color, low-income children, children with disabilities, multilingual learners and immigrants behind.”

Clausius-Parks urged lawmakers “…to prioritize equitable solutions that will eliminate disparities and ensure that children and families can move forward with the health, educational and economic supports they need to thrive.”