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Report Shows Traumatic Events Staggering Development of Ky Kids

PHOTO: A national report shows that two thirds of Kentucky kids who live in low-income households are not enrolled in preschool. Photo by Greg Stotelmyer.
PHOTO: A national report shows that two thirds of Kentucky kids who live in low-income households are not enrolled in preschool. Photo by Greg Stotelmyer.
November 4, 2013

JEFFERSONTOWN, Ky. - A new national report shows that children younger than nine in Kentucky have the highest rate of traumatic events in their lives, events such as the death or incarceration of a parent; divorce of their parents; or witnessing violence in the home. The study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation finds that Kentucky and Montana have the highest rates of adverse childhood experiences, with one out of every ten kids having faced three or more traumatic events.

According to Terry Brooks, executive director, Kentucky Youth Advocates, that can be too much for almost any child.

"They know that three or more of these events really stagger a kid's development," he said. "Kids are resilient and they might be able to absorb one, they might be able to absorb two. More than that, it almost becomes overwhelming."

Brooks said there needs to be a more collaborative effort in the delivery of childhood services. In his words, "We've got to look at addressing families in a holistic way."

The report finds that almost two-thirds (65 percent) of Kentucky's three- and four-year-olds living in low-income households are not enrolled in preschool.

"If kids, especially low-income kids, are not getting appropriate preschool, they're going to start behind, and then you just recreate the cycle," he warned.

Nationwide, 63 percent of kids from low-income families are not in preschool, compared with 45 percent of kids growing up in more-affluent homes. The report notes that research shows that kids who enter kindergarten with below-average language and cognitive skills can catch up, but only if they are physically healthy and have strong social and emotional skills.

According to Laura Speer, associate director for policy reform and advocacy at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, "early childhood" reaches beyond preschool.

"So, we think it's really important that we look at the early childhood years as being from birth until eight years old," she said. "There's a few critical things that happen, one of which is children learn to read."

Speer said flexible work schedules and paid sick leave could make a huge difference for parents. Kentucky has more than a half-million kids, some 507,000, aged eight and younger, and more than half of them, 255,000, are from low-income families.

Link to the report at AECF.org.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY