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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Gains, losses seen in status of Lawrence County children

Friday, March 19, 2010

Lawrence County children arriving for the first day of school in Pierce City. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
Little change was seen in Lawrence County concerning conditions for children in the latest Kids Count report, which is prepared annually by Citizens for Missouri's Children. Major indicators showed both improvements and growing points of concern.

Kids Count ranks 114 Missouri counties and the city of St. Louis in 10 indicators of child well-being. For the second year in a row, Lawrence County had an composite county ranking of 91.

The number of children in the county dropped between 2007 and 2008 by 46. The latest total of 9,600 reflected a growth of only 15 children since 2004.

Three positive trends were identified in the study:

* The biggest ranking shift reflecting a positive trend came in the number of school students enrolled in free and reduced meal programs, an indicator of economic stress. Lawrence County's ranking in the state was 76th, down from 86th a year ago. The total dropped from 3 percent above the study's base year to 2 percent, though the number of total children qualifying has grown by 146 since the base year.

* Lawrence County had the smallest number of child deaths between ages 1 and 14 of any southwest Missouri county. Only three instances were recorded in 2008, one less than the previous year, for a state ranking of eighth lowest, down from 12th the previous year. Barry County's ranking of 79th is more typical of the region. The Lawrence County rate of 7.6 deaths per 100,000 compares to a state rate of 20.3 per 100,000.

* The number of instances of infants dying also dropped in 2008 to 16, down from 23 the year before. The county ranking of 45th in the state compared a local infant death rate of 6.2 per 1,000 live births with a state rate of 7.4 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Several negative trends were identified:

* The biggest negative trend was in births to teenagers. The county's ranking fell from 65th to 86th. The current county rate is 66 out of every 1,000 births will be by a teenager between the ages of 15 and 19, compared to a state rate of around 45 per 1,000 births.

* The state rank for high school drop-out rate went from 87th to 90th. The county rate of 4.3 percent is lower than the state average of 3.9 percent.

* Out-of-home placements went from a state ranking of 75th to 80th. Though Lawrence County numbers have dropped since the base year of the study, the local placement rate is 5.3 per 1,000 entries, compared to the state rate of 3.8 per 1,000.

* The number of cases of infants with low birth weight increased from 178 in 2007 to 194 in 2008, resulting in a state ranking of 67th. The county rate of 7.5 percent is still better than the state rate of 8.1 percent.

* The number of children receiving cash assistance rose by 244 cases, up 8 percent, between 2007 and 2008.

* The county unemployment rate went from 4 percent to 4.8 percent between 2007 and 2008.

Several indicators showed little change:

* The county rank for births to mothers without high school diplomas stayed the same at 102nd. The current county rate of 31 percent compares to the state rate of 18 percent.

* Children enrolled in the Missouri HealthNet for Kids state healthcare program increased by 55 between 2007 and 2008.

* The number of children receiving subsidized childcare rose by four cases between 2007 and 2008.

* The number of violent deaths for teens increased by one case between 2007 and 2008. The county ranking is 79th. The current rate of violent deaths in the county is 105 per 100,000, compared to the state rate of 66.7, which is very close to the local rate the first year the study was done.

"By reviewing annually the status of Missouri's children, we hope to educate the public about whether our children have the resources and supports needed to develop into healthy, well-rounded adults," said Scott Gee, executive director for Citizens for Missouri's Children.

"During this time of economic uncertainty, it is imperative that our state protect the health and stability of families," Gee said. "It's time for Missouri to take a long, hard look at what we are doing to our kids, before things get even worse."

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