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Can Kentucky Continue Progress on Child Well-Being?

Kentucky ranks 37th nationally in overall child well-being. (Pixabay)
Kentucky ranks 37th nationally in overall child well-being. (Pixabay)
June 27, 2018

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Kentucky is building momentum when it comes to improving the lives of children. The 2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation examines key areas of child well-being, and shows Kentucky is making strides in family economic well-being, child health coverage, teen births and parental education.

Kentucky Youth Advocates Executive Director Dr. Terry Brooks said it's important to pause and reflect on these successes.

"When, year after year after year, you hear bad news when it comes to economics, maybe a year in which we heard good news can be a catalyst for policies that make a real difference at the kitchen tables across the Commonwealth," he said.

While Kentucky's child poverty rate of 25 percent is slightly better than last year's, Brooks noted it's still much higher than the national rate of 19 percent.

The Data Book ranks the Commonwealth 37th among states in overall child well-being.

The report also warns of the potential threat posed by a 2020 Census under-count, as the young-child under-count has gotten worse with every census since 1980. It was one million short in 2010.

Laura Speer, associate director for policy reform and advocacy with the Casey Foundation, predicts it could be worse still in 2020 without action to improve accuracy.

"There's about 4.5 million young children who live in neighborhoods where there's a high risk of missing kids in the count," said Speer. "And it's important because the census will inform federal spending for the next decade. We really just have one shot to do this right."

Some 11 percent of Kentucky kids under age five currently live in "hard-to-count" areas. If they are missed, Brooks said vital programs that help young children thrive could face cuts.

"This isn't about philosophy; it's not about political persuasions," Brooks observed. "It's making sure that Kentucky grabs every federal dollar that we can for the next 10 years. That begins now, as we begin to prepare locally-based strategies to reach out and count every Kentuckian in 2020."

Among its recommendations, the report suggests the government fully fund census outreach and education, and address the digital divide that could limit participation of people without internet service.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - KY