By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News
The annual Kids Count County Child Welfare Data Book ranks Kentucky 37th in the nation for the overall health of its children. Since last year, the condition has improved in 10 of 17 categories, including fewer teenage pregnancies and fewer women smoking during pregnancy. But the data shows wide disparities between counties and among children of color.
This year County Data Book 2021 focuses on disparities “caused by historical and systemic issues related to a child’s skin color,” many of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic, said Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, during an online press conference.
“All children face a long climb on their journey to adulthood, but children of color must climb a steeper slope due to long-standing inequalities and specific barriers based on their skin color. or their country of origin,” Brooks said in a press release. “When we invest in what all children need and tailor additional supports for children facing greater barriers, every child in Kentucky will have a brighter future.”
As an example, Brooks pointed to the disparities that exist around poverty.
While the number of poor children in Kentucky has declined, urban children are more likely to be poor 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 in the report gives policymakers in Frankfort and Washington an opportunity to take action on policies that impact poverty, such as cost and childcare accessibility, child tax credits and payday lenders, which he said he “locates”. like cockroaches in the colored areas of these urban centers.
And it’s not just about poor children, said Brooks: “I’ve long presented the hypothesis that unless and until we tackle child poverty, nothing else will move. . It is the catalyst. This affects health outcomes; it affects academic success; it affects the safety of the family.
In 2019, 20.9% of children in Kentucky lived below the federal poverty line, down from 25.9% in 2014. Oldham County had the lowest proportion of poor children, 4.8%, and the Lee County had the highest, 44.3%. It is among 22 of 120 counties in the state in which more than a third of children live below the poverty line, which in 2019 was $25,750 for a family of four.
“With the cost of housing, food and transportation, most families need an income of at least twice the official poverty line to cover their basic needs,” the report said.
It shows that poverty rates are much higher for black (32%) and Latino (30%) children and children of two or more races (33%) than for white children (19%). Nearly one in four Kentucky residents is a child.
Another indicator of poverty is the share of a family’s income spent on 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 stayed the same or got worse on this indicator.
The directory Kentucky Kids Count County Data Bookreleased Nov. 10 by Kentucky Youth Advocates and the Kentucky State Data Center at the University of Louisville is part of the 31st annual Kids Count, a national initiative of the Annie E. Casey Foundation to track the status of children in the United States. United States.
The Data Book provides information on the general well-being of children in each county, across 17 measures in four areas: economic security, education, family and community, and health.
Overall, Kentucky saw improvements in 10 of 17 indicators and worse on four. Three of the indicators did not have baseline data for year-to-year comparison.
Statewide, fewer babies were born to mothers who reported smoking at any time during pregnancy in Kentucky, and fewer teenage girls in Kentucky were having babies; but these rates vary widely by county.
Statewide, 16.7% of babies in Kentucky were born to women who reported smoking during pregnancy in 2017-2019, up from 19.8% in 2012-2014. Yet 19 counties have seen an increase in this rate since 2012-14.
Six counties (Warren, Daviess, Oldham, Jefferson, Fayette, and Hancock) had smoking rates during pregnancy 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%.
Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of health problems for developing babies, including preterm birth, low birth weight, and birth defects of the mouth and lips. Smoking during and after pregnancy also increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Kentucky continues to improve on teenage births, which fell to 26.3 per 1,000 women ages 15-19 in 2017-19 from 37.7 births in 2012-14. But the rate is still much higher than the national rate 16.7 per 1000.
There is a large difference between counties, ranging from a low of 7.1 teenage births per 1,000 in County Oldham to a high of 62.3 in County Powell.
Nine counties had higher teenage birth rates in 2017-19 than in 2012-14: Lewis, 54.4 births per 1,000; Harrison, 43.5; Monroe, 43.3; Ballard, 41.4; LaRue, 37.8; Breckinridge 32.4; Edmonton, 32.2; Bourbon, 32.1; and Hickman, 28.9.
The number of low birth weight babies in Kentucky increased slightly from 8.7% between 2012-2014 to 8.8% in 2017-2019. A low birth weight baby is defined as weighing less than 5.5 pounds.
the March of Dimes says babies born with low birth weight are more likely to have 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 counties in the state have seen an increase in the number of low birth weight babies since 2012-2014. Rates ranged from a low of 4.3% in Spencer County to a high of 13.1% in Union County.
Babies born to black mothers were most likely to have low birth weight, although this varied by community. In rural areas, black mothers had 16.6 low birth weight babies per 100 births, compared to 8.7 for white mothers and 6.4 for Latina mothers.
“Increasing access to quality health coverage before, during and after pregnancy and reducing gaps in the use of programs such as the HANDS home visiting program would reduce disparities in critical birth outcomes for black babies and mothers,” the report said.
The report provides information on racial and ethnic disparities in each of 17 indicators and offers solutions for each category in the hope that the new Commission on Race and Access to Opportunity, made up of a group of bipartisan lawmakers and of member citizens, will study and consider them.
“We need to recognize racial and class disparities and address them head-on,” said Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville. “We must not procrastinate under any circumstances.”
Other key findings about Kentucky children in the report include:
• Although 90 percent of Kentucky high school students graduate on time, compared to five years ago, 87 of Kentucky’s 167 school districts are down on this indicator. Additionally, only 46% of Kentucky high school graduates were deemed academically ready for college.
• Another gap is health insurance coverage for Latinx children in the state, which is 91%, compared to 97% for black children and 96% for white children. Overall, 95.7% of children in the state had health insurance, including Medicaid, in 2019.
• The most recent data shows that only 37% of Kentucky children placed in foster care are reunited with their parent or primary guardian, and this rate has been dropping for about five years.
• The number of children in Kentucky’s foster care system increased to 53.7 per 1,000 children ages 0-17, from 39.2 in 2013-15.
• Black parents are incarcerated at significantly higher rates than parents of other races in every county in Kentucky, with the greatest disparity in suburban counties, where 16.1 black parents are in state custody for 1,000 adults, compared to 2.8 per 1,000 adults for white parents.
Due to the pandemic, this year’s data collection is unable to provide complete data for the most recent year on kindergarten readiness, fourth grade reading, and eighth grade math scores. year. Instead, the report looked at the proportion of public school students experiencing homelessness (3%), students with Individual Education Plans due to disability (16%), and rates of out-of-school suspensions (9.6 suspensions per 100 enrolled students).
The report was made possible with support from the Casey Foundation and other sponsors, including Charter Communications, Kosair Charities of Louisville, and Passport Health Plan of Molina Healthcare.
the Kids Count Data Center provides easy access to county and school district data for approximately 100 indicators and allows the user to categorize states, counties, and school districts; create personalized data profiles; to generate custom maps and to embed maps and charts into websites or blogs. Visit kyyouth.org to view local county profiles.
Kentucky Youth Advocates