Report shows one in four KY children living in poverty

Between 2005 and 2010, the percentage of children living in poverty grew by 18 percent, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2012 KIDS COUNT Data Book. This equates to one in four Kentucky children in poverty. In 2010, Owsley County, in eastern coal country, lead the state with a 54.4 percent child poverty rate.

(In 2010, a family of two adults and two children fell into the “poverty” category if their annual income fell below $22,113. Data for the KIDS COUNT report came from the American Community Survey based on data covering 2006-2010.) Here’s a look at the child poverty rankings for 2010:

The news from the report isn’t all bad. Kentucky’s overall ranking for child well-being rose from 41st to 35th. Plus, gains in education and health have been made. For instance, between 2008 and 2010, the number of uninsured children in Kentucky fell by 14 percent largely due to greater efforts to get kids enrolled in Medicaid and the Kentucky Children’s Health Insurance Program (KCHIP.) Also, the number of families in which the head of household lacks a high school diploma or GED has seen an 18 percent improvement between 2005 and 2010. Still, though, nearly one in six kids live in a household where their parents lack a basic, high school level education.

When Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, absorbs the report as a whole, he’s concerned. He says when you look at the different indicators of economic well being (families receiving public assistance, food stamps, employment, income, etc…) the picture portends a difficult road ahead. Many of those indicators show more children slipping into trying times. For instance, the number of children receiving food stamps in 2011 is 308,651. In 2005, that number was around 240,000.

Also, the number of children living without secure parental employment increased 12 percent in Kentucky from 2008 to 2010. (That now equates to 37 percent of children living in unemployed or underemployed families.)

“We’ve got to do something,” Brooks tells LEO. He says he’d like leaders to support job-training programs. And Brooks would like to see legislators adopt a refundable state-earned income tax credit similar to the federal credit that helps put a couple hundred bucks in the pockets of low-income, working families.

Underneath the piles of data in this report, Brooks says he’s discovered an “intriguing storyline.” After decades of dropping, the teen birth rate is inching up. More Kentucky children are living in single-parent households, from 31 percent in 2005 to 35 percent in 2010.

Also, children being cared for by relatives have doubled in the last 10 years. Brooks says this data isn’t necessarily bad or good, but it’s important for nonprofits and service agencies to recognize the evolving structure of Kentucky families.

Every year the KIDS COUNT report ranks all 50 states on child well-being based on 16 indicators organized into four categories: economic well-being, family and community, education, and health.

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