The state ranked 41st, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation‘s 2011 Kids Count Data Book. “We no longer are close to being a bottom-10 state. We are among the bottom 10 states,” said Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates.
Kentucky scored particularly low when it came to child poverty, ranking third highest in the country. The study found 26 percent of Kentucky children live in impoverished homes. Kentucky also ranked low because of its poor economy and because it ranked high in the number of babies that are born with low birth weights, which can cause anything from infant death to behavioral and learning disorders. “While some causes are associated with chronic diseases among mothers, such as diabetes, Kentucky tends to have a high rate due to smoking during pregnancy,” Mink reports.
The state also ranked high in terms of the number of children who have at least one parent unemployed. In 2010, about 122,000 Kentucky children had at least one parent who was looking for work. Only four other states and the District of Columbia had higher rates.
Brooks said Kentucky can improve its standing, and improve the welfare of its children, by doing three things. “First, Kentucky families should be given more information about benefits for which they qualify — last year, Kentuckians left $300 million in unclaimed benefits, such as food stamps and tax credits,” Mink reports.
Brooks said he is also strongly in favor of passing a state earned income tax credit, which he said would help families make ends meet. Lastly, he recommends cracking down on businesses that advertise payday loans. “Those kinds of predatory practices contribute to the high price of being poor in Kentucky,” he said.
The results of the report were not all bad, however. Kentucky improved on the number of teenagers who stay in school. The average number of kids in Kentucky affected by foreclosure was also lower than the rest of the country. Compare 2.3 percent, or 38,000 children, to the nation’s average of about 4 percent. Brooks said the disparity is due to the fact that many Kentuckians rent and live in rural areas. (Read more)