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Ups and Downs in Latest KY Kids Count Numbers

December 17, 2009

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A child advocacy group says both optimism and concern are justified by numbers reported in the just-released "2009 Kentucky Kids Count County Data Book." The rate of children abused or neglected is down, and the number of kids charged with public offenses also has dropped. On the other side of the coin, however, more children are in out-of-home care and more are in detention facilities.

Kentucky Youth Advocates executive director Terry Brooks says diversion programs, not detention, are a more profitable avenue long-term, for both children and the cash-strapped Commonwealth.

"We're setting up, not only kids, for bad situations, but we're setting up the state to be spending a lot more money in just a few years than if we dealt with these kids in a developmentally appropriate way right now."

Other findings in the report show Kentucky's school drop-out rate is the 36th worst in the country, and 90,000 children in Kentucky are estimated to be without health insurance, even though two out of three are eligible for Medicaid or K-CHIP.

Brooks says there's also a need for an integrated data system, so that different agencies who deal with children have access to common information.

"Whether you're a front-line social worker or a school principal, that data cuts across sectors, and everybody has a chance to take a holistic look at children."

Brooks says Kentucky is a state defined by its different regions, and that should be kept in mind when using "Kids Count" numbers to find solutions to the problems children face.

"Why is that county right next to my home doing so much better in high school graduation? Or what can we learn from that county just two over from us about how they deal with child abuse?"

The full report can be seen at www.kyyouth.org.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - KY