The 2009 Kids Count survey shows that fewer Missouri children are receiving cash assistance while more are living in poverty, receiving food stamps, enrolled in MO HealthNet For Kids and receiving subsidized childcare. The survey also shows that more adults are unemployed.
Data provided by National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) also shows that in Missouri 64 percent of fourth grade public school students are not proficient in reading. Nationally, four of five fourth graders from low-income families are also not proficient in reading.
"Early education programs provide the building blocks for a successful educational experience," said Scott Gee, Citizens for Missouri's Children executive director. "It's vital that children start school ready to learn. Missouri must make efforts to ensure all children have access to early learning opportunities, so we can help ensure they do not start kindergarten already lagging behind."
According to Citizens for Missouri's Children, low-income children are less likely to participate in high-quality early childhood programs. In 2008, 44 percent of Missouri children between the ages of 3 and 5 were not enrolled in nursery school, preschool or kindergarten.
The number of children living in poverty has increased at both the state and local level. The percentage of Missouri children living in poverty increased from 15.3 percent in 2000 to 18.3 percent in 2007. The number of local children living in poverty increased from 23.5 percent to 25.7 percent during the seven-year period.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, the current federal poverty level for a family of four is $21,204 per year. Although the average annual wage for Missouri is currently $38,154, the average annual wage for Barry County is only $29,201.
Over the last year, the adult unemployment rate in Missouri has risen 1.1 percent, but Barry County only increased from 4.9 percent in 2007 to 5.4 percent in 2008.
According to federal regulations, families must rank at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level for their children to be enrolled in the free school lunch program and under 185 percent of the federal poverty rate to enroll in the reduced price program.
The number of children receiving free and reduced price lunches increased slightly at the state level from 41.7 percent in 2007 to 42 percent in 2008. Locally, the percentage of children utilizing the programs jumped from 53.3 percent in 2007 to 55 percent in 2008.
Even though the number of accredited childcare facilities in Missouri increased from 473 to 563 between 2008 and 2009, area children are limited by the number of licensed childcare facilities located in the county. There have only been four accredited childcare facilities operating locally since 2006.
Barry County ranked worse in four other key indicator areas in 2009. Those areas include: children receiving food stamps; infant mortality; children enrolled in MO HealthNet for Kids; and child abuse and neglect.
Most troubling, the number of children suffering from abuse or neglect in the county increased while the number of abused children decreased in the state. In 2007, 334 Barry County youngsters suffered from abuse or neglect, and in 2008, 463 children were abused or neglected. That is a 13.7 percent increase.
Fewer children across the state and locally are receiving cash assistance, but the number of children receiving food stamps increased from 31 percent in 2007 to 32.7 percent in 2008. The percentage of local children receiving food stamps increased from 39.1 percent to 40.7 percent during the two-year period.
Even though the number of low birth weigh infants in the state and county remained stagnant at 8.1 percent between 2005 and 2006, the number of infant mortalities in Barry County increased from 19 in 2005 to 21 in 2006.
The number of children enrolled in MO HealthNet for Kids, a state health insurance program, has increased at both the state and county level. In Barry County, the percentage of kids enrolled in the program increased from 39.8 percent in 2007 to 40.2 percent in 2008.
The annual Kids Count in Missouri, which is published by Citizens for Missouri's Children, is an analysis of children's health status in all 115 Missouri counties.
With Kids Count and other projects, Citizens for Missouri's Children raises public awareness, educates, mobilizes citizens and partners with organizations to create positive changes for children in Missouri.
The cornerstone of Kids Count in Missouri is the annual Kids Count in Missouri Data Book, which documents the status of children in the state.
Primary funding for the project is provided by the Children's Trust Fund and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which supports similar Kids Count projects in all states.