By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News
Annual children matter County data book on child welfare ranks Kentucky 37th in the nation for the overall condition of its children. Since last year, the status has improved in 10 of the 17 categories, including fewer teen pregnancies and fewer women who smoke during pregnancy. But the data shows large disparities between counties and children of color.
This year County data book 2021 focuses on disparities “caused by historical and systemic problems related to a child’s skin color”, many of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic, Terry Brooks, executive director of The Kentucky Youth Advocateshe said at an online news conference.
“All children face a long climb on their journey to adulthood, but children of color have to climb a steeper hill due to longstanding inequalities and specific barriers based on skin color or country of origin,” Brooks said in a press release. “When we invest in what all children need and adapt additional supports for children facing bigger barriers, every Kentucky child will have a brighter future.”
For example, Brooks pointed to the disparities that exist around poverty.
While the number of poor children in Kentucky has declined, children in cities are more likely to be in poverty than those in rural areas, and Latino and black children are also more likely to live in poverty.
Brooks said the county-level poverty data contained in the report gives policy makers in Frankfurt and Washington the opportunity to act on policies that impact poverty, such as childcare costs and accessibility. tax credits for children and payday lenders, which he said “spot as cockroaches in the colored areas of those urban centers.”
And it’s not just about the poor children, Brooks said: “I have long put forward the hypothesis that unless and until we address child poverty, nothing else will move. This is the catalyst. It affects the results. health, affects school results; affects family safety “.
In 2019, 20.9 percent of Kentucky’s children lived below the federal poverty level, down from 25.9 percent in 2014. Oldham County had the lowest percentage of children in poverty, 4.8 %, and Lee County had the highest, 44.3%. It is among 22 of the state’s 120 counties where more than a third of children live below the poverty line, which was $ 25,750 for a family of four in 2019.
“With the cost of housing, food and transportation, most families need an income of at least double the official poverty level to cover their basic needs,” the report said.
It shows that poverty rates are much higher for black (32%) and Latino (30%) children and for children of two or more races (33%) than for white children (19%). Nearly one in four Kentuckians are children.
Another indicator of poverty is how much a family’s income goes towards rent: in Kentucky, nearly half of renters, 45%, have spent at least 30% of their income on rent and utilities, a phenomenon exacerbated by the pandemic. Thirty-seven of the state’s 120 counties remained unchanged or deteriorated on this indicator.
Overall, Kentucky saw improvements in 10 of the 17 indicators and worse in four. Three of the indicators did not have baseline data for a year-to-year comparison.
Throughout the state, in Kentucky, fewer babies have been born to mothers who reported smoking at any time during pregnancy, and fewer Kentucky teens are having babies; but these rates vary widely by county.
Statewide, 16.7 percent of Kentucky’s babies were born to women who reported smoking during pregnancy in 2017-19, down from 19.8 percent in 2012-14. However, 19 counties have seen an increase in this rate since 2012-14.
Six counties (Warren, Daviess, Oldham, Jefferson, Fayette, and Hancock) had pregnancy smoking rates of 10% or less, and 13 had rates of 30% or more, all in eastern Kentucky: Menifee, Lee, Harlan, Elliott, Jackson, Breathitt, Wolfe, Bell, Perry, Leslie, Clay, Owsley, and Martin, the only county above 40%.
There is a big difference between counties, ranging from a low of 7.1 out of 1,000 teen births in Oldham County to a high of 62.3 in Powell County.
Nine counties had higher teen birth rates in 2017-19 compared to 2012-14: Lewis, 54.4 births per 1,000; Harrison, 43.5; Monroe, 43.3; Ballard, 41.4; La Rue, 37.8; Breckinridge 32.4; Edmonson, 32.2; Bourbon, 32.1; and Hickman, September 28.
The number of underweight children in Kentucky increased slightly, to 8.8 percent in 2017-19 from 8.7 percent in 2012-14. An underweight baby is defined as less than 5.5 pounds.
More than half of the state’s counties saw an increase in underweight children from 2012-14. Rates ranged from a low of 4.3% in Spencer County to a high of 13.1% in Union County.
“Strengthening access to quality health coverage before, during and after pregnancy and filling gaps in the use of programs such as the HANDS home visit program would reduce disparities in critical birth outcomes for children and mothers of color. “, the report states.
The report provides information on racial and ethnic disparities in each of the 17 indicators and offers solutions for each category in the hope that the new Commission on Race and Access to Opportunities, made up of a group of bipartisan lawmakers and citizen members, will study and scrutinize them.
“We need to recognize racial and class disparities and address them directly,” said Senator Gerald Neal, D-Louisville. “We must not misunderstand in any way.”
Other key findings on Kentucky children in the report include:
- Although 90% of Kentucky high school students are graduating on time, compared to five years ago, 87 of Kentucky’s 167 school districts have deteriorated on this indicator. Furthermore, only 46% of Kentucky graduates were deemed academically ready for college.
- Another gap is health insurance coverage for the state’s Latino children, which is 91%, compared to 97% for black children and 96% for white children. Overall, 95.7 percent of the state’s children had health insurance, including Medicaid, in 2019.
- The most recent data shows that only 37 percent of Kentucky children in foster care are reunited with their primary parent or guardian, and this rate has dropped from about five years ago.
- The number of children in the Kentucky foster care system increased to 53.7 per 1,000 children aged 0-17, from 39.2 in 2013-15.
- Black parents are incarcerated at substantially higher rates than parents of other races in all Kentucky counties, with the greatest disparity in suburban counties, where 16.1 black parents are in state custody per 1,000 adults, up from 2.8 per 1,000 adults for white parents.
Due to the pandemic, this year’s data book is unable to provide comprehensive data for the most recent year for kindergarten prep, fourth grade reading, and eighth grade math scores. Instead, the report examined the percentage of homeless public school students (3%), students with individualized educational plans due to a disability (16%) and out-of-school suspension rates (9.6 suspensions for every 100 students enrolled. ). ).
The relationship was made possible with the support of the Casey Foundation and other sponsors, including Paper Communications, of Louisville Kosair charity Other Molina Healthcare Passport Health Plan.