This year’s 2022 Kentucky Child Count County Data Book looks at the well-being of children in each county, highlighting the importance of developing meaningful policies to support Kentucky youth, with a focus on listening to what young people have to say and taking action on them Very important.
“We want to challenge our lawmakers to read and listen to this data, to listen to policy solutions and to listen to young people,” Kentucky Youth Advocates executive director Terry Brooks said in a news release. “We know those lawmakers listen to the national groups that bring black money into Kentucky. They certainly listen to people who contribute to political action committees. They listen to high-paid lobbyists. We wonder if they have Courage to listen to the voices of young people.”
Partisan rhetoric will continue to prevail as we head into the 2023 gubernatorial election and the 2024 presidential election, making it all the more important for children’s advocates to “stand above the political fray,” Brooks noted in the databook.
“We must ensure this becomes a moment of affirmation, rather than turning to a radical ideology that diminishes the well-being of our children,” he said.
To get Kentucky youth to share their realities and address what is important to them, KYA surveyed them asking what their hopes and concerns were. The survey found that their top four concerns were addressing school safety, increasing opportunities for teens to congregate in safe community spaces, increasing teen mental health support and wanting well-funded schools to provide meaningful avenues for opportunity.
The databook, released Nov. 16 by KYA and the Kentucky State Data Center at the University of Louisville, is part of the 32nd annual Child Statistics Report, a national initiative of the Annie E. Casey Foundation to track The State of American Children.
The County Data Book rates children’s overall well-being across 16 indicators in four main areas: economic security, education, health, and family and community. “While the Covid-19 pandemic continues to impact many households in ways that have not yet been shown in the data, the book identifies ongoing challenges and areas for improvement,” the release said.
Statewide, 15.7 percent, or nearly one in six, of Kentucky babies in 2018-20 were born to women who reported smoking during pregnancy, down from 19 percent in 2013-14. Seven counties with less than 10 percent smoking during pregnancy: Warren (7.4 percent); Davis (7.5 percent); Oldham (7.5 percent); Jefferson (8.5 percent); Hancock (8.6 percent) ; Shelby (9.3%) and Fayette (9.3%).
All 12 counties with a death rate of 30 percent or more are in Appalachian Kentucky: Harlan (30.8 percent); Brecht (30.8 percent); Bell (31 percent); Elliott (31.1 percent ); Jackson (31.6 percent); Lee (32 percent); Perry (33 percent); Leslie (34 percent); Wolff (34.2 percent); Clay (34.9 percent); Owsley (35.3 percent) ; and Martin (38.4%).
Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of health problems in the developing baby, including full-term delivery, low birth weight, and congenital mouth and lip defects. Smoking during and after pregnancy also increases the risk of SIDS, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The number of low birthweight babies in Kentucky remained unchanged between 2018-20 and 2013-15 at 8.7%, higher than the national percentage. Low birth weight infants were defined as less than 5.5 lbs.
The March of Dimes puts the national figure at about 8 percent, and that babies born with low birth weight are more likely to develop certain health problems later in life, including diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, intellectual and developmental disabilities, metabolic syndrome and obesity.
More than half of the state’s counties have seen an increase in low birthweight babies since 2013-15. Rates ranged from 5.9 percent in Oldham County to 13.6 percent in Elliott County.
Teen births continued to decline in Kentucky, with 24.5 births per 1,000 women ages 15-19 in 2018-20, down from 26.3 in 2017-19. The rate has been falling steadily since 2009-11, when it was 45.9 per 1,000 people.
The rate varies widely among counties, from a low of 5.6 teen births per 1,000 women ages 15-19 to a high of 56.1 in Floyd County.
Seven counties had higher teen birth rates in 2018-20 than in 2017-19: Bourbon County, 25.1 births per 1,000; Hickman, 38; LaRue, 36.8; Lyons, 28.7; Mason, 35.7; Morgan, 48.2; and Robertson, 52.6. Bourbon, Hickman, and LaRue counties also increased from 2012-14 to 2017-19.
In 2020, the percentage of Kentuckians under age 19 with some form of health insurance was the same as in 2015 at 95.7%, but since 2015, that number has decreased in 53 counties.
Other key findings about children in Kentucky from the report include:
• While child poverty rates have improved in 116 of 120 counties compared to five years ago, 19 percent of children statewide still live in poverty.
• This is underscored by the fact that only 44 percent of kindergarteners were ready to start school the previous school year, a decline in 124 of 170 school districts. Only 46 percent of 4th graders are proficient in reading — from 12 percent in Bourbon County to 81 percent in Anderson County — and only 36 percent of 8th graders are proficient in math, from 9 percent in Jackson County to 77 percent in Anchorage Louisville’s Independent School District.
• The percentage of children in foster care increased in 88 counties compared to 2014-2016 and 2019-2021, reflecting a 31 percent statewide increase. Likewise, the percentage of children leaving foster care to be reunited with their parents or caregivers declined, with nine counties having a reunion rate of less than 20 percent, with Lee County having the highest rate at 63 percent.
• 8,010 youth were imprisoned in 2019-21, almost half the rate in 2014-16 (13.7 per 1,000 compared to 26.4 per 1,000).
This report was made possible with support from the Casey Foundation and other sponsors, including Aetna Better Health Kentucky, Kosair Charities and Charter Communications.
Kids Count Data Center provides easy access to county and school district data for approximately 100 indicators and allows users to rank states, counties, and school districts; create custom profiles of data; generate custom maps; and embed maps and chart.
(Author: Melissa Patrick, Kentucky Health News)