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More Money for Kids - Report Spotlights the Needs

PHOTO:  The annual Kentucky Kids Count, released Tuesday, spotlights the critical need for more state funding of programs that help improve the economic security of children. Photo by Greg Stotelmyer.
PHOTO: The annual Kentucky Kids Count, released Tuesday, spotlights the critical need for more state funding of programs that help improve the economic security of children. Photo by Greg Stotelmyer.
December 10, 2013

JEFFERSONTOWN, Ky. - The head of Kentucky Youth Advocates says his organization's annual measuring stick of child well-being should be a "lever for action." The 23rd annual Kentucky Kids Count County Data Book is out, and according to KYA executive director Terry Brooks, it illustrates the need for "smart investments" in our children's futures.

"We hope that all of this mountain of data could be a catalyst to initiate local programs, learn from your neighbors," he said.

Among the 16 indicators of child well-being covered in the report, Brooks said, some of the most concerning data centers on the "widespread lack of economic security for kids."

For example, more than one in four Kentucky children live in poverty.

"We know that there can be state-level action, such as an earned-income credit, that can really change the trajectory on poverty in this state," he said.

Kentucky is one of 26 states that does not offer a tax credit to low-income working families similar to the federal Earned Income Tax Credit. The report also finds that well over half of the state's three- and four-year-olds are not enrolled in preschool.

Brooks said the data should "embolden" lawmakers to change tax policy and to restore millions of dollars in cuts made earlier this year to child-care services. The Legislature returns in January, and its main job will be to approve a budget for the next two fiscal years. Brooks said he wants them to make kids a priority.

"There's not a single legislator, when they look at those county rankings, that can't fast forward to next July and begin asking themselves, 'Are the kids in my county going to be better off or worse off because of the actions of the 2014 General Assembly?'"

Brooks said however that there's "real hope" coming from the Legislature's efforts to reform juvenile justice so that fewer kids are locked up. He said that will bring a "sea change" improvement.

Link to the KIDS COUNT report at KYYouth.org.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY