The Kentucky Youth Advocates organization released last week its 2019 Kentucky KIDS COUNT County Data Book, which offers the latest available data on 17 measures of child well-being in the state.
The data shows a mixture of both improvement and worsening of conditions in which children in Johnson County live.
According to a statement from KYA, the data book serves as an annual “report card” on how the state is meeting challenges for children.
“More than 1 million children in Kentucky are relying on all of us— from the statehouse to your house—to put them and their futures first. Kids’ issues are the common ground that unite the General Assembly and the Governor’s Mansion,” said Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates. “The County Data Book serves as an annual report card for how we are meeting that charge for all of our kids. Because we at Kentucky Youth Advocates believe that what gets measured gets changed, this data can serve as a catalyst for a far-ranging, smart, bi-partisan and budget- sensitive agenda when it comes to kids in the commonwealth.”
Statewide poverty statistics showed several areas of improvement, according to the organization.
While there was no change in the percent of children in deep poverty between 2008 and 2012 (12 percent) and between 2013 and 2017 (12 percent), the percent of children in poverty between 2012 and 2017 did fall from 26.5 percent to 22.1 percent.
The data shows that the percentage of children in low-income families also fell during the same period from 48 percent to 47 percent and the percent of children living in “food insecure” households fell from 21.7 percent in 2013 to just over 18 percent in 2017.
The data also shows that, statewide, the percentage of children exposed to smoking during pregnancy and the percent of low-birthweight babies fell between 2010-2012 and 2015-2017, while the percentage of children under 19 with health insurance grew from 94 percent to 96.3 percent between 2012 and 2017.
The rate of babies born to girls age 15-19, statewide, fell precipitously between 2010-2012 and 2015-2017, going from 42.9 per 1,000 to 29.7 per 1,000.
However, in some statistics, the data shows, the state worsened. The percentage of births to mothers without a high school degree fell.
While the rate of youths incarcerated in the juvenile justice system statewide fell from 45.1 per 1,000 in 2011-2013 to 26.6 in 2016-2018, the rate of children in foster care during the same period rose from 35.3 per 1,000 to 47.3 per 1,000 and the percent of children exiting foster care to reunification fell from 41 percent to 36 percent during the same time period.
The data book also shows that much of Eastern Kentucky remains a “child care desert” — a census tract that contains either no child care providers or an insufficient number of child care slots.
The organization says in the report that the state can improve the financial stability of families through increased state funding for child care assistance and enacting a state refundable Earned Income Tax Credit, as well as raising payment rates for child care providers and advancing paid family leave.
The data shows that Johnson County has improved in all areas of economic security measured, including the percent of children in poverty or deep poverty, the percent of children in low-income families and the percentage of children living in food insecure households. In many of those areas, the data shows, Johnson County’s rates are below the state’s.
In the area of health measures examined in the data, Johnson County saw across-the-board improvement, with a falling rate of smoking during pregnancy and low-birthweight babies, as well as teen birth rate. The data shows the county’s percentage of children under 19 with health insurance also was better in 2017 than 2012, with 96.2 percent of children being identified as having health insurance.
Johnson County saw improvement across-the-board in the area of “Family and Community,” with the percentage of births to a mother without a high school degree falling to 15%, the rate of children in foster care falling to 48.1 per 1,000, the percentage of children exiting foster care to reunification with the parent/primary caretaker rising to 40 percent and the rate of children incarcerated in the juvenile justice system falling to 5.6 per 1,000.
The KYA statement said this year’s data book also highlights the United States’ largest data collection effort, the decennial census, set to take place next year.
“An accurate count is about dollars, data, and democracy. More than 12,000 Kentucky kids under age five were not counted in the 2010 census—an omission that cost the commonwealth and our kids more than $12 million per year for just five large programs,” Brooks said in the statement. “Each of us can help ensure that every child is counted in the 2020 census, and within the County Data Book we’re offering action items that we must begin working on immediately as Census Day is just months away.”