Our view: All kids count

Published 9:14 am Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Did you know in Clark County:

— 23 percent of children live in poverty?

— 48 percent of children live in a home where rent costs more than 30 percent of the monthly household income?

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— 35 percent of kindergartners are not ready to learn?

— 37 percent of fourth graders are not proficient in reading?

— 53 percent of eighth graders are not proficient in math?

— Almost 28 percent of women smoked during pregnancy — higher than the state average of 21.5 percent?

— 11 percent of children and young adults do not have health insurance?

— 54 out of every 1,000 children have been incarcerated in the juvenile justice system?

— 62 out of every 1,000 children are living or have lived in out-of-home care because of abuse or neglect?

These are some of the stunning statistics released Sunday in the annual KIDS COUNT report by the Kentucky Youth Advocates.

The report includes data in four areas of child well-being: economic security, education, health, and family and community.

According to the report, Clark County ranks 39th of Kentucky’s 120 counties in terms of childhood well-being. The fact that we rank in the top 30 percent of the state means despite the harrowing statistics we listed above, Clark County’s children are actually doing alright compared the other 60 percent of the state.

We have come a long way in terms of making sure our children have a brighter future, but this report suggests we still have long way to go.

In Kentucky, children make up 23 percent of the population, but account for 32 percent of those living in poverty. Kentucky has the second highest rate of birth to mothers who smoked during pregnancy. More than 1 in 10 children in Kentucky have lived with a parent who has served time in jail or prison — the highest rate in the nation.

This year, the report also provides details about the extreme racial and income disparities children face in Kentucky.

“The zip code in which Kentucky children live, the amount of money their family earns and the color of their skin are pervasive and powerful influences on the childhood they will have and the future they will embrace,” Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, said.

It’s an unfortunate and sad truth. But what can we do?

It’s time for Kentuckians and Clark Countians to make huge steps to make sure all kids get an equal opportunity to be successful.

It seems that many of these changes can start at home with parents who make better decisions, like choosing not to smoke during pregnancy, preventing abuse and neglect and staying out of jail.

But there are also statewide policies and programs that can provide more access to health care, more affordable housing for young and low-income families and provide extra support for students in these “gap” areas. 

Brooks said it best in the report: “We need to continue to implement policies and practices that help all children, and in order to do that, we must face some uncomfortable truths … We must learn, grow and move forward together. It’s going to take all of us. There is no room for complacency when it comes to the future of Kentucky’s children.”

We will dig deeper into the report and talk with those in our community working every day to protect the future of Clark County children.

You can access the report yourself at kyyouth.org.