Kentucky’s Kids Count report shows more children in foster care but fewer released by reunion – 89.3 WFPL News Louisville

Kentucky’s 2022 Kids Count County Data Book highlights how the Commonwealth has improved over five years in areas affecting children. The data also shows where the state still has room for improvement.

Notable trends in this year’s results include an increased number of Kentucky children placed in foster care, although the number of children abandoned by reuniting with families has decreased.

Gun fatalities among children under 19 increased by 83% compared to a three-year period through 2015.

Kids Count is a national program that compares states across multiple metrics for education, economic stability, health, and family and community.

Kentucky Youth Advocates (KYA), which compiles the Kids Count, distills this data into a county-level understanding.

“Hopefully it informs lawmakers in Frankfurt and gives us a sense of overall trends,” said Terry Brooks, Executive Director of KYA.

More children end up in foster care, but fewer are reunited with families

The number of children in foster care increased by 12% from 2014 to 2016 compared to the baseline data. The number of children released from foster care as a result of reunification fell by 5%.

Brooks noted that the past three governors have been working on child reforms, but more needs to be done.

“I understand that these numbers would actually be worse if we hadn’t implemented the reform that we would have implemented, but we can’t look at history and don’t know that we need to redouble our efforts to support vulnerable families,” Brooks said.

Brooks said he hopes state legislatures can agree on policy changes related to child welfare. Otherwise, he fears more children will be separated from their families.

“This is a political arena where we’ve seen common ground and common sense being applied,” Brooks said. “It was really characterized by a lack of partisanship.”

One metric in the community and family category that improved was the number of juveniles incarcerated, which fell by almost 13%.

Brooks attributed this decline to the understanding that distraction works better than detention.

improvements in the economic situation

Child poverty also improved across the country, with the number of children living in poverty and low-income families decreasing.

According to data from 2015, 25.3% of children lived in poverty. Data from 2020 shows the proportion has dropped to 19.4%. This disproportionately affects younger children and children of color.

Over the same period, the proportion of children living in low-income families fell from 48% to 44%.

Poverty rates improved in 116 of Kentucky’s 120 counties.

Brooks said more should be done to ensure the positive trend doesn’t stop.

“As long as there are over 200,000 children living in poverty in the Commonwealwealth, we can’t celebrate at all,” Brooks said.

Brooks said dealing with economic instability would help this metric.

Changes in other categories

In the health category, all of the nationwide data either improved or stayed where they were in previous results.

Rates of smoking during childbirth and teen pregnancy declined nationwide, although low birth weight babies and children under 19 with insurance remained flat from 2015.

In education, there was a very small increase of about 0.1% in high school graduates who graduated on time. However, the percentage of ready-to-learn children entering kindergarten has declined.

KYA’s ultimate goal for presenting Kids Count data is to spur action by legislators and other government agencies to make improvements.

“Now it’s up to us to strategize and then act,” said Lt. gov. Jacqueline Coleman at a news conference on Wednesday. “Without action, it’s all in vain.”

Coleman said she hopes there will be bipartisan support for initiatives related to child wellbeing outcomes.