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Kentucky's Report Card on Child Well-Being

A new report highlights the impact income, race and geography are having on the well-being of children in Kentucky. (Greg Stotelmyer)
A new report highlights the impact income, race and geography are having on the well-being of children in Kentucky. (Greg Stotelmyer)
December 7, 2016

JEFFERSONTOWN, Ky. – Where children live, their families' income and their race impact their chance to thrive, according to a new report card on child well-being in Kentucky.

The Kids Count 2016 County Data Book provides a snapshot of how kids are doing in each of the state's 120 counties.

Kentucky Youth Advocates Executive Director Terry Brooks said while the state has made progress by reforming its juvenile-justice system and ensuring kids have health insurance, there's more to be done, because one in four children still lives in poverty.

"Increasing eligibility for child care; thinking about paid family leave; implementing some innovative ideas like micro-enterprise zones: those are the kinds of steps that are not Democratic and they're not Republican," he said. "They've been shown to work in other places."

The annual report used 16 different indicators to examine child well-being, everything from reading proficiency to low birth-weight babies.

Brooks said Kentucky has to face the "uncomfortable truths" that ZIP Code, money and skin color matter, especially with achievement gaps in education.

"Among the areas that have the biggest gaps in those factors of race, geography and income, is public schools," he explained.

Brooks said Kentucky has to get back to the central mission of its sweeping education reform of 1990, which targeted reducing the economic disparity between schools.

Bill Stewart, a retired social worker, grew up in Knox County, which is ranked 113th in child well-being. He said abuse of prescription drugs and meth have emerged as the top concerns.

Stewart asked, "Do we have adequate services for treatment, especially in rural areas? I think the answer is almost certainly that we do not."

Stewart proposes a broad effort analogous to education reform to address the smorgasbord of children's issues.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY