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Conditions for Lawrence County kids improving

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Kids Count study surveying conditions of children throughout Missouri shows a number of distinct improvements for children in Lawrence County at the same time several chronic problems, such as teens giving birth and the number of violent deaths, persist.

Kids Count is an annual overview of factors affecting children's welfare prepared by Citizens for Missouri's Children. Figures are drawn from numbers collected through the federal census. The latest figures tally trends from 2007 and 2008.

The population in Lawrence County has grown over the past five years, influencing many of the trends. The 2008 count of children was 9,600, reflecting a 2 percent increase in the last five years.

The percentage of children in the general population has remained steady at a little over 25 percent.

Economic indicators

If affluence is measured by local wages, children should have seen conditions improve. Average annual wages rose 9 percent between 2006 and 2007, part of a 17 percent rise over a five-year period. The county average wage of $26,681 compared to the state average of $38,154.

Unemployment rose by nearly 1 percent between 2007 and 2008 but was the same as five years earlier. The adult unemployment rate of 4.8 percent compared to the state average of 6.1 percent.

The number of children in poverty rose by 31 percent between 2000 and 2007. One out of four children were in poverty in the 2007 survey, compared to one out of five in 2000. One out of three children under age 6 was counted as living in poverty.

Students enrolled in free and reduced meals programs at public schools showed a slight decline between 2007 and 2008. The total is now 52 percent, changing very little over the last four years.

Factors affecting poverty

The number of children in single parent families has risen to more than 44 percent, up 25 percent from 2000. Children in single parent families more than doubled between 2000 and 2007. The total more than tripled since the 1990 count.

Parents paying child support has increased by 7 percent over the last measurement. By 2008, 66 percent or two out of three parents with children 18 and under were paying child support in the state system. The number represents a 10 percent increase over five years ago.

Children receiving cash assistance represent only 3.5 percent of the population, a number that has steadily dropped over the past five years.

The percentage of children born to mothers without high school diplomas has stayed fairly steady over the last five years. Actual numbers have increased by 21 between 2007 and 2008, for a total of 180 in 2008.

Childcare

The number of children receiving subsidized childcare through programs like Head Start has stayed even over the last three years of the study. Numbers have dropped by over a third since five years ago.

Licensed childcare capacity has stayed at around 450 children in three of the last four years. Five years ago the number was 30 percent higher. The county has had only three accredited childcare facilities for four years in a row.

Minority numbers

The number of minority children has increased by 90 since the last annual count and represents almost 12 percent of the general population. Minority children increased in 2007 and 2008 counts after staying steady in the three previous years.

A direct consequence of the increase in minority children may be the 25 percent increase in the number of children with limited English proficiency between 2007 and 2008 after the count had stayed fairly steady for four years.

Health variables

The number of children born at a lower weight than is considered healthy hit a plateau in 2004 and 2005 then rose by 9 percent in 2006. The number has increased by 22 percent over a five-year period.

Births to teenage mothers hit a new high between 2007 and 2008, also jumping up by 22 percent to 78 in 2008. Births to teens has risen by 15 percent in five years.

Infants deaths declined sharply. The 16 deaths in 2006 represented a drop of seven from the previous year and a 36 percent drop over five years. The number of deaths involving children ages 1 to 14 dropped to a five-year low, with three dying in 2006.

Violent teen deaths increased by one in 2006. The number has stayed fairly close for three consecutive years.

The number of children enrolled in the Missouri HealthNet for Kids program rose slightly in 2008. The upswing was the first after a three-year decline.

Public immunizations were at a five-year low in 2005, down about 7 percent over five years at nearly 73 percent, the same level as was recorded in 2003.

Child abuse and neglect was also on the upswing. The number of cases rose by two in 2008 from 2007. The number has stayed fairly steady over a five-year period.



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