KIDS COUNT shows areas of progress, concern in Ky.
Published 8:16 am Wednesday, November 22, 2017
According to a report released last week offering data on various measures of child well-being, Clark County fares well compared to the state averages, but still has work to do in some key areas.
The 2017 Kentucky KIDS COUNT County Data Book was released Nov. 14 by Kentucky Youth Advocates and The Kentucky State Data Center and offers the latest data on 17 measures of child well-being.
This year’s report also shows whether outcomes for children have improved, worsened or stayed the same over a five-year period.
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The study provides state- and county-level data on various measures of four basic areas of well-being: health, family and community, economic security and education. Those measures are broken down into four or five specific data points like poverty level, access to health insurance, health behaviors, out-of-home care, kindergarten readiness and others.
“The message behind the KIDS COUNT data is clear: giving children opportunities to succeed is essential if our state is to reach its potential,” Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, said.
The book also examines how children fare based on place, income and race for key indicators of well-being.
“Looking at data change over time illuminates areas of progress and areas of needed policy change and investment. If all of our kids — no matter their families’ income, skin color, or ZIP code — are to grow up to be healthy and productive citizens, their needs must be prioritized,” Brooks said.
Financial stability of families remains the area of highest need for Kentucky communities.
A family of four in rural Kentucky needs $58,005 per year to adequately support itself, yet many families fall short.
In Kentucky, 12 percent of children, or approximately 120,857, lived in deep poverty, or below 50 percent of the federal poverty level, between 2011-15.
“To put this in perspective, that equates to an annual income of $12,000 or less for a family of four,” Brooks said.
Even more children live in poverty, below 100 percent of the federal poverty level — 25.3 percent in 2015, a slight improvement of the 26.1 percent in 2010.
Nearly half (48 percent) of Kentucky children live in low-income households.
More staggering is that more than 200,000 children or 20 percent of children in Kentucky lived in a food-insecure household in 2015.
Childhood food insecurity is highest in rural counties and black and Hispanic children are more likely to live in food-insecure households.
In Clark County, children have a slightly better but still concerning outlook when it comes to economic security: 8 percent live in deep poverty, 23.9 percent live in poverty, 43 percent come from low-income families and 17.8 percent live in food-insecure households.
Statewide, 50.1 percent of kindergartners entered school ready to learn in the 2016-17 school year, a slight improvement of 1 percent from the 2013-14 school year.
In 2016-17, 49.9 percent of fourth-graders were proficient in reading, an improvement of about 2 percent from 2011-12; and 48.7 percent of eighth graders were proficient in math, a 7 percent increase from 2011-12.
According to the report, less than half of eighth graders are proficient in math in more than half of Kentucky school districts — including Clark County, where the rate is 43.9 percent, about 5 percent below the state average. Low-income children are also more than 50 percent less likely than their higher-income peers to be proficient in math.
However, 90 percent of high school seniors graduate on time in Kentucky, up from about 86 percent in 2012-13. In Clark County, the rate is even higher with about 96 percent of students graduating from George Rogers Clark High School on time in 2016-17. Particularly encouraging is that the local rate increased from 90.3 percent in 2012-13.
Other Clark County data from the 2016-17 school year includes: 55.8 percent of kindergarteners entered school ready to learn and 50.4 percent of fourth-graders were proficient readers.
“On paper, Kentucky kids are improving in educational outcomes, but when you look closely, you see we still have a long way to go,” Dale Brown, Director of College and School Relations at Western Kentucky University, former school superintendent and a Kentucky Youth Advocates board member, said.
Health data continue to show progress for Kentucky kids in various areas, from high rates of health insured children to decreased rates of mothers smoking while pregnant.
Clark County had slightly higher rates of smoking during pregnancy, low birth weight babies and teen births than the state average, according to the report.
In 2013-15, 20.6 percent of new mothers in Kentucky reported smoking during pregnancy, down about 4 percent from 2008-10 data. In Clark County, 24.6 percent reported smoking during pregnancy in the same time-frame. The rate of low-birth-weight babies in Kentucky also decreased to 8.7 percent in 2013-15 from 9.1 percent in 2008-10. Clark County’s rate was slightly higher at 9.1 percent in 2013-15.
More than 9 in 10 children younger than 19 had health insurance in Kentucky and Clark County in 2015. In every Kentucky county, at least one in 10 children are covered by Medicaid or CHIP, but low-income children remain less likely to have health insurance. Kentucky’s Hispanic children have uninsured rates more than double that of other racial/ethnic groups.
Three out of four young adults (ages 19 to 25) were also insured in Kentucky and Clark County in 2015.
Also promising is a decrease in the rate of teen pregnancies from 2010 to 2015. In 2015, the rate was about 34 births out of every 1,000 females ages 15 to 19.
Kentucky’s teen birth rates mirror the national downward trend, but are still higher than the national average. In 2015, the national rate was 22.
Clark County’s rate is higher than both the state and national averages at about 45 teen births for every 1,000 females age 15 to 19.
“The good news is that there are fewer mothers smoking while pregnant and, in turn, fewer low-birth-weight babies,” Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, said. “We must get serious about protecting our children from the harmful effects of tobacco in the Commonwealth.”
Family and Community
Stable families and supportive communities help children develop and make healthy transitions into adulthood. Over the past five years, Kentucky has incarcerated fewer children by putting greater emphasis on a youth justice system that responds effectively and helps kids stay on track to succeed, according to the report.
The state saw a drastic reduction in the rate of youth incarcerated by the juvenile justice system. In 2008-10, 61.7 out of every 1,000 children age 10 to 17 was incarcerated, compared to a rate of 26.4 in 2014-16. Clark County’s rate is higher than the state’s at 42.3 per 1,000.
At the same time, more kids are living in out-of-home care, including in residential facilities, foster care and in relative placements, with rate increases in 88 of Kentucky’s 120 counties.
Kentucky saw an increase from 2008-10 in the rate of children living in out-of-home care from 35.3 of every 1,000 children ages newborn to 17 to 41.1 in 2014-16.
According to the report, 7 percent of Kentucky children are a being raised by grandparents and other relatives — the highest rate in the nation. Out-of-home placements vary greatly across the state, but children living with grandparents and other relatives are more likely to live in poverty (32.3 and 29.5 respectively) than their peers in foster care (20.1).
In Clark County, 60.7 of every 1,000 children ages newborn to 17 live in out-of-home placement.
In Kentucky, 14.6 percent of births in 2013-15 were to mothers without a high school degree, compared to 19.7 percent in 2008-10. Clark County’s most recent data echoed statewide trends at about 15 percent.
There was also an increase in the number of children living in high-poverty areas from 37 percent in 2006-10 to 21 percent in 2011-15. Clark County’s rate was 29 percent in 2011-15.
“Kentucky kids rely on their state leaders to make decisions and investments that prioritize them,” Brooks said. “As state agencies, the legislature and Governor craft the next biennial budget and prepare for the 2018 session, we are calling on leaders to build a budget that invests in kids’ education, health, economic security and safety.
“Our communities and economy can only win when Kentucky kids and their families succeed.
Read the 2017 Kentucky KIDS COUNT County Data Book and access the Kentucky KIDS COUNT Data Dashboard featuring data trends for the 2017 report at kyyouth.org.