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Report Shows Progress, but Some Concerning Indicators, for MO Kids

The annual Missouri snapshot of child well-being shows improvement in family and community, economic and education categories, but a need for improvement in areas of health. (biker3/AdobeStock)
The annual Missouri snapshot of child well-being shows improvement in family and community, economic and education categories, but a need for improvement in areas of health. (biker3/AdobeStock)
May 1, 2019

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - For the past five years, Missouri has made continuous improvements in reducing the number of children younger than age 18 living in poverty and experiencing food insecurity. In other areas, however, the state has work to do.

In the latest update from Missouri Kids Count, program director Tracy Greever-Rice said there's mostly good news - with births to teenagers down nearly eight percentage points, and graduation rates up three points.

"We're looking at our outcome measures in four domains: economic well-being, health, family and community and education," she said. "Under three domains - economic well-being, family and community, and education - the trends all continue to move in the right direction."

However, in the area of health - particularly mental health - Missouri's kids face challenges. The Kids Count figures showed a jump in suicide rates, and more hospitalizations for substance abuse and other mental and behavioral health issues. Greever-Rice said it will be important for the state to achieve the most accurate 2020 census count possible because the count determines federal funding streams for many of those issues.

Starting this summer, the U.S. Census Bureau will begin hiring a half-million workers nationwide to help with the 2020 population count. When the 2010 census showed Missouri's population had dropped, the state lost hundreds of millions of federal dollars - about $1,300 for every person undercounted. In Missouri, Greever-Rice said, there's another reason for residents to fully participate.

"The other important thing in Missouri, about the quality of the count," she said, "is that Missouri is one of the states at risk of losing another legislative district. Missouri lost a legislative district in the 2010 Census, and there's a possibility that we could lose one in 2020 also."

Greever-Rice said children living in poverty or those in families who move frequently or live in multi-generational households often are undercounted during a census. Kids Count is a project of the Family and Community Trust supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Kids Count data is online at mokidscount.org, census data is at reachhealth.org, and a Missouri Kids Count app is available for download here.

Disclosure: Missouri Kids Count contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, Poverty Issues, Youth Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Roz Brown, Public News Service - MO