By Mara Powell
The 2017 Kentucky KIDS COUNT County Data Book offers the latest data on 17 measures of child well-being, showing whether outcomes for children have improved, worsened or stayed the same over a five-year period. It also calculates how many children would be impacted if Kentucky was able to make just a 10 percent improvement for each measure. Detailed data is available for every Kentucky county.
“The message behind the KIDS COUNT data is clear: giving children opportunities to succeed is essential if our state is to reach its potential,” said Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates. “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.”
The 2017 County Data Book allows users to investigate areas in which Kentucky and its counties are making progress and those needing focused attention for improvement by highlighting information and data in four domains of child wellbeing: economic security, education, health and family and community.
“Quality data helps us focus our efforts to build healthier and safer communities,” said Mark Carter, CEO of Passport Health Plan. “That’s why we are so pleased to sponsor a tool that health provider partners, community agencies, youth and advocates across Kentucky can utilize to build stronger communities for our future–our children.”
Financial stability of families remains an area of highest need for Kentucky communities. Between 2010 and 2015, Kentucky saw a small reduction in childhood poverty. However, one in four children still live in poverty and 48 percent live in low-income families. A 10 percent improvement in the economic security of Kentucky families would mean nearly 25,000 fewer children in poverty and nearly 52,000 fewer children in low-income families.
“Growing up in a financially stable home affects almost every other aspect of a young child’s life,” said Jennifer Hancock, president and CEO of Volunteers of America Mid-States. “The addiction crisis has touched every community and has worsened many families’ financial instability. We understand the challenges of parents struggling to make ends meet as they work to end their addiction and grandparents draining their savings to provide basic needs for a child they are caring for due to parental addiction or incarceration.”
The quality of the Commonwealth’s future workforce depends on the educational achievement of our children. The data show that less than half of Kentucky eighth graders are proficient in math, which is a concern because success in math sets students up to excel beyond high school. The good news is nearly nine out of 10 high school students are graduating on time.
Health Health data continues to show progress for Kentucky kids. Nearly 96 percent of children under age 19 and 77 percent of young adults age 19 – 25 have health insurance, which they depend on to stay healthy. In addition, rates of smoking during pregnancy, babies born at low birthweight and teen births all improved over the past five years. For instance, Kentucky has seen a 13 percent decrease in the rate of births to mothers who smoked during pregnancy.
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.
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. Local communities can act upon this data to advance child well-being for the kids in their cities and neighborhoods.
“We know that what gets measured, gets changed,” said Jude Thompson, CEO of Delta Dental of Kentucky. “The results of the 2017 County Data Book will serve as a report card for how we measure progress in our quest to improve oral health through local, data-driven solutions.”
The latest County Data Book also offers solutions to policymakers to create pathways to success for all families and children, especially those who have historically been blocked from reaching their full potential.
2017 KIDS COUNT County Data Book introduces benchmarks for child well-being 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.
— Mara Powell is with Kentucky Youth Advocates.