Letcher County ranks 82nd among Kentucky’s 120 counties in terms of the well-being a children, a new publication says.
The 2014 County Data Book released this week by Kentucky Youth Advocates provides a picture of the status of children in Kentucky counties based on 16 indicators of child well-being. State and local leaders can use the book to help evaluate what is going well for kids and where improvements need to be made. This is the 24th annual release of the Kentucky County Data Book, which represents a county-level counterpart to the 2014 national KIDS COUNT Data Book that was released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in July.
This year’s County Data Book ranks all Kentucky counties on overall child well-being and on four domains critical to that wellbeing: economic security, education, health, and family and community strength. It is important to note that the indicators included in the 2014 rankings are different than those included in the 2013 County Data Book. Therefore, current rankings should not be compared to last year’s county rankings.
The counties with the highest overall child well-being rankings include (in order) Oldham, Boone, Spencer, Woodford, and Calloway counties. Martin, Owsley, Wolfe, Clay, and Elliott counties have the most room for improvement, scoring at the bottom on overall child well-being.
The opening essay discusses the vast number of Kentucky children that experience one or more adverse childhood experiences (known as ACEs) while growing up and offers recommendations to prevent and help kids recover from these experiences so they can thrive as adults. ACEs are events and circumstances during childhood that have the capacity to change the course of a child’s development even into adulthood, damaging health and shortening lifespans. These adverse experiences include all types of child abuse and neglect; economic hardship; separation or divorce; witnessing domestic violence in the home or neighborhood violence; living in a household where mental illness or substance abuse are present or where a former household member is incarcerated; and being treated unfairly due to race or ethnicity. In Kentucky, 1 in 5 children birth to age 5 experience two or more ACEs compared to 1 in 8 children nationally.
“We know when children experience traumatic events such as abuse and neglect or having an incarcerated parent, it negatively impacts their health and often causes barriers to success later in life. Kentucky leaders need to enact solutions to prevent these experiences in the first place and when they do happen, help children successfully recover,” said Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director at Kentucky Youth Advocates.
The essay offers recommendations to prevent adverse childhood experiences such as implementing sexual abuse prevention training in all public schools.
“Experiencing child abuse can have a lasting negative impact on a child. That’s why Kosair Charities is committed to addressing child abuse in our community,” said Randy Coe, president of Kosair Charities. “We can all help end child abuse, and schools have an important role in teaching staff to recognize and report abuse. They can also teach children to understand appropriate interactions with others.”
Other recommendations highlight the need to provide concrete support to families trying to make ends meet. These include expanding child care supports for working families, streamlining enrollment and access to supports that help families, such as food stamps, and enacting a state Earned Income Tax Credit.
The book includes county level data on all 16 data points included in the rankings.