There's plenty more that state and local agencies can do to improve the welfare of Kansas children, local residents say.
Teen pregnancy prevention programs and universal preschool are two things that could improve the welfare of Kansas children, say local residents involved with children's issues.
According to the fifth annual Kids Count Data Book, Kansas ranks 20th when it comes to providing for the welfare of children. The rankings were released Sunday.
Kansas saw its percent of births to single teens jump from 5.5 percent to 8.2 percent between 1985 and 1991. Kansas Sen. Sandy Praeger, R-Lawrence, said those statistics help explain other problems, including low birth weights and children in poverty.
"It has been estimated that teen pregnancies cost the state of Kansas between 300 million and 400 million dollars a year," Praeger said. "If they have more than two children by the time they reach the age of 20, the chances of them getting off of welfare are greatly diminished."
Praeger supports teen pregnancy prevention programs like those the state has funded in four Kansas communities. Praeger said Topeka, which has such a program, saw a 23 percent drop in teen pregnancies over two years.
Lawrence School Board President John Tacha sees another barrier to the welfare of children.
"I think people who are born in poverty and then don't have the opportunity to get schooling until they get to kindergarten are at a tremendous disadvantage," Tacha said.
Tacha said the Lawrence School-Business Partnership is exploring the feasibility of offering preschool to anybody who wants it.
According to Kids Count, Kansas' juvenile violent crime arrest rate jumped by 51 percent between 1985 and 1991. Douglas County District Court Judge Jean Shepherd attributes much of the increase to drug trafficking in urban areas.
She said the drug trafficking follows interstates, so it was no surprise to her that Oklahoma saw a 106 percent increase in its juvenile violent crime arrest rate. Shepherd said it's well known that drugs travel from Texas to Tulsa to Wichita.
Shepherd would like to see conflict resolution training for teen-agers. Also, she said, agencies should cooperate to help students who are skipping school.
"Kids who have attendance problems at school are at an extremely high risk of having problems," Shepherd said.