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Archive for Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Kansas children ranked 12th in country in newest survey

June 27, 2006

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In Kansas in 2004, one of every eight children lived in poverty.

"That figure hasn't changed much over the years," said Gary Brunk, executive director at Kansas Action for Children, commenting on the latest findings in the 2006 Kids Count Data Book.

In most states, children are poorer. Nationally, the number of children living at or below the federal poverty guideline is 18 percent - two of every 11 children.

Using 10 statistical indicators that measure child well-being, Kids Count ranked Kansas 12th in the nation.

New Hampshire and Vermont were first and second, respectively; Louisiana and Mississippi were 49th and 50th.

Missouri, where one in every six children lives in poverty, was 30th.

"You can look at the rankings and say Kansas appears to be doing well - and we are; we were ranked 15th last year," Brunk said. "But you can also make the argument that we're not getting better; we've still got a 12 percent child-poverty rate."

Also, Kids Count data revealed that a disproportionate number of the children in poverty are under age 6.

"For kids 0 to 6, 15 percent are in poverty," Brunk said. "For kids 0 to 19, it's 12 percent."

The difference, he said, is likely to add to the state's long-term woes.

"We all know that poverty puts kids at risk," Brunk said. "But those risks are even greater for younger children because of all the developmental risk factors - things like brain development and social, emotional and psychological development. The younger years are critical."

Other findings:

l 20 percent of the state's children under age 6 live in families earning less than 200 percent of the poverty guideline.

l Between 2000 and 2003, the number of low-birthweight babies born in the state increased from 6.9 percent to 7.4 percent.

l The number of teen births fell from 46 per 1,000 girls between ages 15 and 19 in 2000 to 41 per 1,000 in 2003.

"The good news is that Kansas improved on six of the 10 indicators," Brunk said. "That's a reflection on the increased investments we've made in recent years in early childhood development programs and child care assistance. We're doing the right things, but the fact that we're seeing more younger kids in poverty is saying we need to do more of what we're doing because they work."

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