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More Focus on Missouri's Children Urged

There's both good and bad news in the latest Missouri Kids Count survey. (Virginia Carter)
There's both good and bad news in the latest Missouri Kids Count survey. (Virginia Carter)
April 13, 2017

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – There's a growing number of children in Missouri who live in high poverty areas, are homeless or lack health insurance, according to the latest Kids Count survey.

Tracy Greever-Rice, director of the University of Missouri Office of Social and Economic Data Analysis, says counties were ranked this year on poverty, food insecurity, preventable hospitalizations, child asthma, ER visits, births to teens, and graduation rates. She says the report finds there's a lot of work to be done when it comes to the well being of children.

"A quarter of Missouri's children live in high poverty areas,” she points out. “The percentage of our kids without health insurance is going up, where as nationally it's going down, and that is 100 percent a Missouri policy choice. We could have all our children insured."

The report also found child abuse and neglect cases in Missouri have gone up, and hospital visits are also up for both mental behavioral and substance abuse diagnosis.

On a positive note, she says, the graduation rate was up, and there were fewer pregnancies among Missouri teens.

Researcher Wayne Mayfield says even though poverty in general is declining, poverty density in the Show Me State is going up, meaning there are many neighborhoods where it's rampant.

"Overall, families seem to be doing better from an economic perspective, but there are some families that still have not participated in the recovery," he states.

Bill Dent, executive director of Family and Community Trust in Jefferson City, says now that the report card is out, conversations among service agencies can take place, with the ultimate goal of assuring that every child in Missouri has a chance at the best life possible.

"It helps communities look at child well being through the lens that is more local to them and then focus those conversations around what can that community or a region do to impact those numbers in a positive direction," he explains.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MO