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Montana's Children 'By the Numbers'

PHOTO: The latest edition of the Montana Kids Count Data Book shows that overall, the state is a good place to raise children. Courtesy Montana Kids Count.
PHOTO: The latest edition of the Montana Kids Count Data Book shows that overall, the state is a good place to raise children. Courtesy Montana Kids Count.
July 31, 2013

HELENA, Mont. - Montana is home to more than 200,000 children, and a new report shows how they're doing "by the numbers."

Mostly, the 2012 Montana Kids Count state book is full of good news, with higher levels of education, high numbers of children in two-parent families and low teen birth and child-abuse rates. The one thing the state needs to work on, according to Montana Kids Count director Thale Dillon, is reducing the rate of child deaths. It has declined - but, she said, not enough.

"Even if we make improvements, we are still seeing too many of our children die," she said, "and they die from causes that are preventable."

Montana's child death rate - 45 per 100,000 children - is almost double the national rate of 26 per 100,000.

Traffic-related deaths are mostly responsible. Dillon said most are preventable through seat-belt and child safety seat use, as well as reducing distractions for teen drivers. Just telling young people to take safety precautions won't stick, she said.

"When children see their parents see their children engaging in these behaviors that are high-risk," she said, "children will take their parents' examples to heart."

The suicide rate also needs attention, she said. Most victims are males in their late teens who take their lives using firearms.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MT