The good news? Fewer kids are living in poverty. The bad news? STD rates are way up.

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Children in New Jersey generally are better off than they were six years ago, new data shows: Fewer are living in poverty. Fewer live with families receiving benefits such as food stamps. And fewer are testing positive for high levels of lead in their blood.

At the same time, however, teens are more likely to catch an STD and fewer mothers are getting prenatal care.

While many of those figures are reason for optimism, advocates and officials on Friday warned that the publicly funded programs to aid children and families could be at risk if all New Jerseyans aren’t counted in the upcoming 2020 Census.

The nonprofit Advocates for Children of New Jersey, in partnership with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, released on Friday a county-by-county breakdown of several key statisticson families and children in the state. At Adelphia Restaurant in Deptford, advocates and officials stressed that the Census will help determine how more than $22 billion is spent in New Jersey each year. Food stamps alone costs $1.2 billion. In 2018, 353,883 children benefited from that federal nutrition program.

“It’s interesting that we’re doing Kids Count and Census today because they’re related,” said Cecilia Zalkind, the president and CEO of Advocates for Children, adding that much of the data used in the Kids Count report came from Census figures. “Money depends on the Census. The critical programs that we rely on to support children and families have state funding, yes, but many of them come from federal policy and depend on federal funding.”

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