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2019 Kentucky KIDS COUNT County Data Book:  A Holistic Look at Child Well-Being

2019 Kentucky KIDS COUNT County Data Book: A Holistic Look at Child Well-Being

Bill Stephens

November 19th, 2019

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LOUISVILLE, Kentucky — The 2019 Kentucky KIDS COUNT County Data Book offers the latest data on 17 measures of child well-being, showing whether outcomes for children across the commonwealth have improved, worsened, or stayed the same over a five-year period.

Detailed data is available for every Kentucky county at www.kyyouth.org/kentucky-kids-count/.

“More than 1 million children in Kentucky are relying on all of us—from the statehouse to your house—to put them and their futures first. Kids’ issues are the common ground that unite the General Assembly and the Governor’s Mansion,” said Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates. “The County Data Book serves as an annual report card for how we are meeting that charge for all of our kids. Because we at Kentucky Youth Advocates believe that what gets measured gets changed, this data can serve as a catalyst for a far-ranging, smart, bi-partisan and budget-sensitive agenda when it comes to kids in the commonwealth.”

The 2019 County Data Book allows readers and leaders to investigate areas in which Kentucky and its counties are making progress and those needing focused attention for improvement. It highlights data in four domains of child well-being: economic security, education, health, and family and community. In each of the domains, Kentucky Youth Advocates dives deeper into a related topic, including improving financial stability of families through child care supports and paid family leave, creating stronger health partnerships in schools to improve kids’ health and educational success, focusing on student mental health to prevent teen suicide, and analyzing the overrepresentation of youth of color in the foster care system.

Data highlights from the 2019 County Data Book:

  • With improved rates in 107 out of 120 counties, fewer children are living in poverty compared to 2012. There has been an improvement from more than 26 percent of Kentucky kids to just over 22 percent.
  • Fewer Kentucky kids are also left wondering where their next meal will come from due to food insecurity, which is down from nearly 22 percent in 2013 to 18 percent in 2017. Kentucky saw improved rates for this indicator in 113 out of 120 counties.
  • A high school diploma is essential to achieve economic self-sufficiency, and in 115 school districts the rate of high school students graduating on time has increased. Progress is still needed to improve graduation rates in the 49 school districts that worsened.
  • Though more Kentucky youth are graduating on time than ever before, students across the commonwealth are still struggling with reading and math. Fifty-three percent of fourth grade students are proficient in reading, with 88 out of 173 school districts worsening in this indicator since school year 2013-14. Forty-five percent of eighth grade students are proficient in math, with 73 out of 173 districts worsening within the same time period.
  • Kentucky continues to see high numbers of children with health insurance with 96.3 percent covered in 2017. While all 120 counties have improved rates in children having health coverage, we must work to cover the remaining gap so that all children have access to needed health care.
  • Last year we reported that the rate of children in foster care continued to increase, and sadly that hasn’t changed. Kentucky reached a new record high rate of 47.3 per 1,000 children in 2016-18.
  • The new data indicator in the County Data Book – the percent of children who are reunited with their parent or primary caretaker when they exit foster care – is trending in the wrong direction with only 36 percent of kids reunifying. When children cannot remain safely in their home, expanded services to families through the federal Family First Act will hopefully allow those children to return home safely and turn this data in the right direction.

This year’s edition also highlights the United States’ largest data collection effort, the decennial census.

“An accurate count is about dollars, data, and democracy. More than 12,000 Kentucky kids under age five were not counted in the 2010 census—an omission that cost the commonwealth and our kids more than $12 million per year for just five large programs,” Brooks observes. He adds, “Each of us can help ensure that every child is counted in the 2020 census, and within the County Data Book we’re offering action items that we must begin working on immediately as Census Day is just months away.”

“As the dust from the election settles and we’re gearing up for the 2020 legislative session, I genuinely believe that kids can be the common ground on which all of our decisionmakers can stand for the common good of our commonwealth,” continued Brooks.

Read the 2019 Kentucky KIDS COUNT County Data Book, review a toolkit on hosting a community conversation on KIDS COUNT data, and access county data profiles and the data dashboard featuring state data from the 2019 report disaggregated by race at www.kyyouth.org/kentucky-kids-count/. Order copies of the County Data Book here.

The 2019 Kentucky KIDS COUNT County Data Book was made possible with support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and our KIDS COUNT sponsors, including signature sponsor Passport Health Plan and presenting sponsor Kosair Charities®, as well as Avesis, Corona Spanish Media, Delta Dental, and Mountain Comprehensive Care.

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