11/14/2014 01:32 EST | Updated 01/14/2015 05:59 EST

Toronto tops Canada in child poverty rates: report

A report released Friday says Toronto has the highest rate of child poverty in the country, a situation its authors call "the hidden epidemic."

The report says almost 30 per cent of children in Toronto are now from low-income families, a situation that leaves them less likely to graduate from high school and more likely to be sick.

Co-authored by the Children's Aid Society of Toronto, the report also finds there are almost 146,000 children growing up in low-income families in Toronto — a number that grew by 10,000 between 2010 and 2012.

The report also ties Toronto with Saint John, N.B., atop the list of 13 Canadian cities with the highest rate of child poverty.

"It's always, 'we can't afford it, we can't afford it,'" said Teresa, a mother in downtown Toronto. "It's very embarrassing on my part, being a mom."

Teresa doesn't want to say her last name to protect her eldest — a 16-year-old who feels the stigma of being poor.

"There's programs that my daughter would like to go to she can't get to them because we can't afford it," she said.
"I know that feeling of being left out's very painful. It's heartbreaking."

Children who do-without are affected physically, mentally and emotionally, according to the report.

The report also shows child poverty is not spread evenly across the city's neighbourhoods or along ethnic and racial lines.

For example 15 neighbourhoods have child poverty rates of 40 per cent or more. Seventeen of Scarborough's 25 neighbourhoods had child poverty rates over 30 per cent. 

Community services simply haven't kept up with the demand.

Michael Polanyi, a community worker with the Toronto Children's Aid Society and the lead author of the report, said there are investments that need to be made in the city services.

"I think it comes down to partly political will and partly people in the community saying it's not acceptable for one third of the children in our city not have the same opportunity that others have," he said.

The report highlights that the number of poor children in Toronto grew by 10,000 over a two year period.