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KY's Changing Families - Not Good News for Kids' Well-being

Image available.
Image available.
July 25, 2012

FRANKFORT, Ky. - Kentucky has landed in the bottom 15 states for the overall well-being of children, according to the new Annie E. Casey Foundation KIDS COUNT Data Book released today.

More and more children in the state are being raised in single-family homes or by grandparents or other relatives, says Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates. The number of Kentucky children living in kinship arrangements has doubled in the past decade, he says, meaning that Kentucky needs to rethink the way it delivers services.

"Faith communities and local leaders and school principals and state legislators need to understand that the family today is not the family of even a decade ago, so we've really got to change in thinking about how to reach out to those families."

The Data Book looks at 16 indicators of child well-being in categories related to economic health, education, and family and community connections. Brooks says one area where the data is misleading is education. Kentucky ranks 35th overall, and 28th in education, but Brooks says despite that relatively high ranking for schooling, two out of three students in Kentucky don't meet national standards for proficiency in reading and math.

Brooks says a bright spot in the report is children's health - where Kentucky stands in 25th place. He says we should recognize the policy changes for children eligible for Medicaid and KCHIP that contributed to the rate of uninsured children in Kentucky falling by 14 percent between 2008 and 2010.

"And figure out what are the conditions, and what are the factors, and who were the players that came together to literally change the landscape of health for kids in the Commonwealth in the last four or five years?"

Kentucky scores a "needs improvement" for economic health of families. Brooks says more than 37 percent of Kentucky children live in homes where neither parent had full-time, year-round employment.

"The economic well-being front in Kentucky is one that absolutely demands action immediately, whether that's a state-earned income tax credit, whether that is a better system of accessing benefits. We've got to do something and we can't wait."

The full Kids Count report for Kentucky is online at datacenter.kidscount.org.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - KY