Child poverty up slightly in Summit County amid statewide decrease | SummitDaily.com

Child poverty up slightly in Summit County amid statewide decrease

Alli Langley
alangley@summitdaily.com
In this spring 2014 photo, Malachi Love, 5, Tessa Ramsay, 4, and Khadyakhon Asrorova, 5, all of Dillon, play with fruits and vegetables in a preschool classroom at Dillon Valley Elementary. The school is one of the places in Summit County where some qualifying students attend preschool for free through a federal grant program called Head Start, which helps parents afford child care and early childhood education.
File photo |

MORE KEY FINDINGS IN THE 2015 KIDS COUNT REPORT

Colorado’s teen birth rate continued its decline in 2013, reaching 22 births per 1,000 teen girls ages 15 to 19. The rate dropped by more than half since 2000.

The percent of children without health coverage has declined significantly since 2008 and declined slightly in 2013. In 2013, Colorado’s rural counties had the highest uninsured rate for children. Rural children were less likely than children in other county types to be covered by employer-sponsored coverage but more likely to be covered by a public health coverage such as Medicaid or the Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+).

Among children under 18, one in five had been exposed to at least two adverse childhood experiences, which include divorce, abuse, neglect, caregiver substance abuse and domestic violence. Among low-income children, the portion rose to one in three. Those experiences leave children at higher risk for physical and mental health problems throughout their lives.

Child care continues to be a heavy burden for Colorado families, both in affordability and availability. Colorado is the second-least affordable state in the country for center-based child care for infants and the sixth-least affordable for center-based care for 4-year-olds.

Colorado has significant gaps in child well-being based on race and ethnicity. Children of color are more likely to live in poverty, less likely to be enrolled in preschool and less likely to graduate from high school on time than their non-Hispanic white peers. Black students in 2013-14 were more than twice as likely to be suspended or expelled than white students. Hispanic and American Indian students were also suspended or expelled at higher rates than their white peers. Research shows students of color often receive harsher punishments than non-Hispanic white students for similar infractions.

The percent of Colorado kindergartners enrolled in a full-day program increased to 74 percent in the 2014-15 school year, up from 40 percent in 2007-08. Children in small rural school districts were most likely to be enrolled in a full-day kindergarten program.

The state’s on-time graduation rate improved modestly in 2014, with 77 percent of students graduating on time. Among 2012 Colorado high school graduates who attended an in-state, public college or university, 37 percent required remediation in at least one subject, down from 40 percent among 2011 high school grads.

Source: The 2015 Kids Count in Colorado! report

The well-being of Colorado children depends largely on where they live.

The creators of an annual Colorado survey on child well-being presented their report at the Capitol Monday, March 23, and focused on the differences in poverty, health and education for children living in rural, urban and suburban parts of the state.

The child poverty rate in Colorado dropped in 2013 for the first time in five years, according to the 2015 edition of KIDS COUNT in Colorado! The report’s authors said they are cautiously optimistic about the potential start of a continued downward trend.

In Summit County, however, social service providers say much work is still needed on persistent issues affecting local kids and families.

“I was frustrated a little bit to see some of the changes from the last report,” said Rob Murphy, assistant director with the nonprofit Family and Intercultural Resource Center (FIRC) in Silverthorne.

According to the report, the percent of children in Summit without health insurance in 2013 rose, from 12.7 percent to 14.8 percent. So did the percent of local kids living in poverty, from 12.7 percent to 13.1 percent.

Though those changes were slight, Murphy said, they’re in the wrong direction.

The report also notes success stories in Summit: the teen birth rate dropped dramatically, Summit students performed better academically than state averages, the high school graduation rate reached 90 percent and the county is one of few with a tax to support full-day kindergarten.

Summit also moved up four places to rank No. 9 among the 25 most populous counties on the report’s overall child well-being index.

POVERTY IN SUMMIT

The Kids Count report comes from the Colorado Children’s Campaign, a nonprofit that advocates for data-driven public policies to improve children’s health, education and early experiences.

The report sifted through data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the state government and other sources. It measured poverty — defined as those living in households with income levels at, or below, $23,550 for a family of four — among children in 2013, the last year that statistics were available.

Of the state’s 1.2 million children, 17 percent lived in poverty, which is a decrease from the 18 percent recorded in 2012.

The report’s authors said that while the child poverty rates dropped slightly, Colorado has had one of the fastest-growing child poverty rates in the nation and childhood poverty is double what it was 15 years ago.

In Summit’s resort community, the federal poverty level means families who make more money are ineligible for some government supports but still struggle with the area’s high cost of living.

“It doesn’t tell the full story of people who are struggling to be self-sufficient,” Murphy said.

For example, though relatively few in Summit qualify for government food assistance, the report says 38 percent of Summit residents rely on low-cost food.

That means they’re buying processed food instead of whole, fresh food, Murphy said, even though Summit doesn’t lack nearby grocery stores and markets, like other counties where “food deserts” are a problem.

The FIRC works to address poverty locally in part by confronting health insurance, he said, and every year for the last five years, the nonprofit has signed up roughly 200 kids eligible for public health insurance but not enrolled.

“It just is not making sense to us how those rates don’t get that much better,” he said. “We’ve definitely made strides, but that’s not good enough.”

He stressed the need for more community collaboration and more targeted local efforts to address problems highlighted in the report.

Thanks to new grant funding, the FIRC recently began a partnership with the county’s largest health care providers and several county departments that provide social services to enroll even more families in health insurance.

SUBSIDIZING CHILD CARE

This year, the Kids Count report analyzed several new measures, including the child care capacity of each county.

“Parents locally are always shocked when they figure out how much child care is,” said Elizabeth Lowe, who works with a local nonprofit called Early Childhood Options to administer Summit’s Head Start program.

Head Start, a federal grant-funded program, sends qualifying low-income children to preschool for free. The program also connects families with local specialists who can help them improve their health and become more self-sufficient.

Lowe compared the cost of local child care to college tuition and said young families aren’t usually prepared to spend thousands a month on child care.

Early Childhood Options partners with the school district, local governments and other nonprofits to help, and Summit resources include the state’s Child Care Assistance Program, which helps qualifying residents pay for child care.

A couple more statistics from the report stood out to Lowe.

One in four children in Summit were overweight or obese, a figure Lowe said was surprising as people think of Summit as an active community.

The number of homeless children also jumped from seven to 31, likely because recent legislation has pushed better training to identify kids in unstable housing situations and connect them with support. Lowe said she anticipates that number to continue to rise.

The Kids Count report doesn’t recommend policies but presents data and trends at the county and state level for lawmakers and local agencies.

“We hope policymakers, advocates, parents and practitioners will have a better sense of not only their communities, but also what unique situations are facing children from the plains to the plateaus,” said Chris Watney, president and CEO of the Colorado Children’s Campaign.

For more information or to see the full report, visit http://www.coloradokids.org/data/kidscount/2015kidscount.html.


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