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Report: 2020 Census Count Could Affect KY Progress on Child Well-being

Federal funding for local school districts is determined in part by the U.S. Census count every 10 years. More than 300 federal programs also use census-derived data. (Adobe Stock)
Federal funding for local school districts is determined in part by the U.S. Census count every 10 years. More than 300 federal programs also use census-derived data. (Adobe Stock)
November 20, 2019

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Fewer children in the Commonwealth are living in poverty compared with 2012, according to new county-level data.

Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, the organization that analyzed the data, said more children are in families that have enough food, are covered by health insurance and are graduating from high school. He said he thinks the state is making good progress, but added that the work can't stop.

"We also can't be naive, however, when we live in a state where nearly half of kindergartners are entering school not prepared to learn," he said. "When the trend line is going in the wrong direction, when it comes to kids transitioning out of foster care being reunited safely with their parents, there is still a lot of work to do."

According to the report, the number of Kentucky children in foster care continues to increase, with nearly 47 out of every 1,000 placed in foster care. Thirty-six percent of children exiting foster care reunify with their parents. the report said.

The report also highlighted the importance of counting children in the 2020 U.S. Census. In 2010, Brooks said, the most undercounted group of citizens in Kentucky was children younger than age 5, meaning the state lost more than $12 million per year in funding for a variety of programs.

"We're talking about Medicaid; we're talking about Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, school lunch programs, support for children with special needs, Head Start, foster care, child care," he said. "It covers the gamut."

Keith Sanders, executive director of the Lawrence and Augusta Hager Educational Foundation, chairs the Daviess County Complete Count Committee, tasked with spreading the word about the census and motivating residents to participate. He said local towns and cities should understand that community dollars depend on the census count.

"Population is one of the major metrics used in determining how much funding goes into a particular program," he said. "There are others as well. So, the number of people in your community is a big factor in the amount of funding that comes into it to address community needs."

While children are the most likely group to benefit from federal programs, he said, they also are the most likely to be missed in the count.

The county databook is online at kyyouth.org.

Disclosure: Kentucky Youth Advocates/KIDS COUNT contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Children's Issues, Youth Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - KY