When it comes to child well- being in Kentucky, we’ve still got much work to do.
Yes, child well-being here has improved somewhat in the past decade thanks to efforts made in Frankfort and across the state, but we certainly hope no one is fully satisfied with the small steps that have been made.
As the Daily News’ Sarah Michels reported, a recently released study from the Annie E. Casey Foundation showed Kentucky ranks 37th nationally based on 16 indicators of child well-being divided between four key areas: economic well-being, education, health and family and community.
Thirty-seventh place. We have 50 states in our union – and just 13 of them rank lower than Kentucky – so there’s clearly lots of room for improvement here in our commonwealth.
Also, Kentucky is in the bottom 10 of all states for six of the 16 indicators, according to the study.
“Frankfort can’t do it alone. Local communities can’t do it alone,” said Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates. “We need to act as a team.”
While the study said Kentucky’s 2016-20 results included slight improvements upon its 2008-12 results in most indicators, Brooks noted that progress has been slower here than in other states, partially because Kentucky has only recently realized “the enormous impact of childhood education.”
Kentucky actually did worse in these four indicators:
- the percentage of young children (3- and 4-year-olds) not in school.
- the percentage of fourth graders not proficient in reading.
- the number of child and teen deaths per 100,000 children and teens.
- the percentage of children and teens aged 10-17 who are overweight or obese.
And even in indicators where Kentucky improved, there’s much room for improvement. For example, child poverty was down four percentage points from 2012, but that still leaves about 22% of the state’s children impoverished, Brooks said.
Yes, as Brooks said, tackling these major issues will take a team effort. But with their control over the state’s large purse strings, our governor and legislature must lead the charge. With Kentucky now holding a massive budget surplus, lawmakers who will convene in our Capitol next year have another opportunity to make stronger investments to move the needle for children across the state.
Brooks told us that every person who doesn’t like what they see in the Annie E. Casey Foundation report has a senator and a state representative to whom they can send a strong message – “We’ve looked at the numbers, we know there are ways you can help kids and we will hold you accountable in 2023,” he said.
That’s excellent advice.
When we send our children to school each day, we urge them to do the best they can. At the same time, when we talk about the well-being of our children, we adults should not be willing to settle for mediocrity … or worse.