Archive for Wednesday, November 11, 1998

REPORT OFFERS GRIM STATS ON TEENS

November 11, 1998

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— An advocacy group says the overall well being of Kansas children rates a "C."

Kansas teen-agers are more likely to smoke pot or die a violent death than in past years, an advocacy group reported here Monday.

Also, the high school graduation rate is declining and fewer expectant Kansas mothers are receiving early prenatal care.

For those and other reasons the overall well-being of Kansas children rates no better than a "C" grade, spokesmen for Kansas Action for Children said Tuesday.

"The violent death rate for Kansas children ages 15-19 was higher than the national average for the second straight year," said KAC director Gary Brunk. "More than half the state's 12th-grade students reported using alcohol in the last 30 days. And Kansas eighth-graders report using alcohol, tobacco and other drugs at higher rates than the national average of all eighth-graders."

The comments accompanied release of the organization's first "report card" on the status of Kansas children. KAC also publishes the annual Kids Count book, a county-by-county listing of 20 indicators of child well-being. The group plans to publish the report card as part of a 10-year scoring project funded by the Kansas Health Foundation.

The KAC report card gave grades in five categories:

  • Safety and security of Kansas children rated a "C-" based on crime, poverty and abuse and neglect statistics. On the plus side, fewer children qualified for free school lunches than in earlier years. Only children from low-income families qualify for free lunch.
  • Health of Kansas children rated a "B-" based on immunization, infant mortality and other health data.

The Kansas infant death rate exceeded the national rate during the KAC reporting period. Kansas immunization rates also were below the national average, but improving over earlier years, according to the report. The percentage teen mothers dipped slightly.

  • Education rated a "B-" based on graduation rates, achievement scores and school readiness.
  • The category of Teen years rated a "D", mostly because of the relatively high incidence of violent death and substance abuse among Kansas teens.

According to the report card, 10.6 percent of Kansas eighth-graders in 1997 reported using marijuana within the last 30 days versus 1.7 percent in 1992.

  • Child care in Kansas rated an "incomplete" because of the lack of data available about its quality and availability.

Cumulative grade for Kansas was a "C".

Kansas could come closer to earning "A"s, Brunk said, if more resources were concentrated on children during the crucial formative years from birth to age 3.

"We know if we pay attention to those early years, things get better in the later years," he said. "Foster care, incarceration, and special education rates all drop when there is more focus on the early years."

-- Mike Shields' phone message number is 832-7144. His e-mail address is mshields@ljworld.com.

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