A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

KY Youth Advocates’ 2017 Kids Count data book sets county-level benchmarks for child well-being

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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.

Click here to view county profiles.
 
“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 well-being: 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.”

Economic Security
 
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. At Volunteers of America, we’re committed to helping parents get the care they need to stay healthy and sober and provide for their families.”
 
Education
 
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 8th 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 9 out of 10 high school students are graduating on time.
 
“On paper, Kentucky kids are improving in educational outcomes, but when you look closely, you see we still have a long way to go,” said Dale Brown, Director of College and School Relations at Western Kentucky University, former school superintendent, and Kentucky Youth Advocates board member.

“Only half of Kindergartners enter school ready to learn. We must team with all stakeholders to ensure that every child has the tools they need to graduate on time and ready for their next adventure-technical training or a 4-year degree.”
 
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 5 years. For instance, Kentucky has seen a 13 percent decrease in the rate of births to mothers who smoked during pregnancy.

 

“The good news is that there are fewer mothers smoking while pregnant and, in turn, fewer low-birthweight babies,” said Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. “The Foundation is committed to working with advocates and local communities to promote smoke-free ordinances, ensure that expectant mothers have easy access to effective tobacco treatment, and raise the state tax on cigarettes to reduce youth smoking. 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. 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. 
 
“All children deserve to be safe and in a family,” said Keith Inman, president of Kosair Charities®. “Kids in out-of-home care, often due to abuse and neglect, are among our most vulnerable. The Kosair Charities’ Face It® Movement is committed to the promotion of best practices in child abuse prevention and intervention, engaging the community, and advocating for effective policies to improve the child welfare system.”


 
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.
 
“Kentucky kids rely on their state leaders to make decisions and investments that prioritize them. 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,” said Brooks.
 
Read the 2017 Kentucky KIDS COUNT County Data Book and access the Kentucky KIDS COUNT Data Dashboard featuring data trends from the 2017 report at kyyouth.org.

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