BOISE – How is Idaho faring in some key areas when it comes to the health and development of its children? Better than last year in some ways, a new report suggests.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2014 Kids Count Data Book discloses both positive and negative trends for the nation’s children, with continued wearing away of economic security.
Idaho continues to drop in national educational rankings, falling to 33rd overall from 29th last year. The state has fallen seven spots to 33rd in fourth-grade reading scores (with 67 percent reading below proficient reading level) and ranks 47th nationally for preschool participation (with 65 percent of 3-to-4 year-olds not attending).
“I believe this trend gives Idaho children a better chance at succeeding into adulthood. Before the age of 5, a child’s brain grows to 90 percent of its adult size. Preschool offers early experiences to enhance the development of a young brain,” said Kids Klub, Inc., executive director/teacher Cindy Godfrey of Grangeville. “As development peaks, offering a wide range of experiences will allow them to make those key connections in the brain that allows the child to be better able to learn new material in the future.”
The Kids Count Data Book assesses states on 16 indicators of child well-being, organized into four categories: family and community, education, economic well-being, and health. Idaho ranks 21st in overall, a one-spot dip from last year.
“Preschools provide the structure and encourage children to focus their attention on learning new information and also offers social skill development,” Godfrey added. “Children learn manners, how to get along with others, learn compassion and empathy, and how to speak to a group. Most kindergartners are now expected to know their letters and numbers when they enter kindergarten. A preschool curriculum can expose children to these concepts and allow them time to master them before starting kindergarten.”
Idaho ranks highest in the family and community domain, coming in at 11th overall. Despite an increase in the percentage of kids living in single-parent families (from 23 percent in 2005 to 27 percent in 2012), Idaho ranks second for this indicator. Nationwide, 35 percent of kids live in one-parent homes. Idaho has also experienced a positive trend with teen births, which have declined significantly since 2005, from 38 births per 1,000 down to 28.
Idaho’s children and families continue to struggle in economic areas, with worsening trends in every indicator measured. The rate of children in poverty rose from 18 percent in 2005 to 21 percent in 2012. Additionally, in 2012, 120,000 Idaho kids, or 28 percent, lived in families where neither parent had secure, full-time employment.
“The recession and its aftermath took a terrible toll on many families in Idaho County, but the last couple of years have brought some improvements as the economy added jobs,” said Kathryn Tacke, regional economist in communications and research for the Idaho Department of Labor. “The Census Bureau estimates that 27.7 percent of Idaho County children lived in poverty in 2012, up from 24 percent in 2005. More current numbers should show a decrease in poverty, as unemployment fell from 9.3 percent in 2012 to 6.7 percent this May.”
Idaho made its greatest strides in the health domain, where the state leaped eight spots to 20th nationally. Idaho made large gains in the percentage of children covered by health insurance, although the state still ranks 34th on this indicator. Idaho’s rate of teen drug and alcohol use continues to be among the nation’s lowest at 6 percent.
Kamiah Community Partners Coalition (KCPC) has been at the regional forefront of focusing on youth drug and alcohol abuse prevention and follows state and local trends closely.
“When we look at alcohol and ask youth if they have drank in the last 30 days, we see the results have stayed about the same across the board,” said KCPC president Kelly Lineberry. “In the 2010-11 school year 23 percent of the kids said yes they had drank in the last 30 days.” In 2012-13 and in 2013-14, the numbers were the same.
However, in marijuana use KCPC surveys showed a decline, and then an increase in use. Again asking youth if they had used marijuana in the past 30 days in 2010-11, 12 percent had, in 2012-13, 8 percent had, and in 2013-14, 10 percent had.
“The one area we have seen a steady decline is in the use of tobacco,” Lineberry said. Asking youth if they had used tobacco in the past 30 days in 2010-11, 14 percent had, in 2012-13 it was 10 percent, and in 2013-14 the number was down to 7 percent.
“There is a consistent message about tobacco use, and a lot of education around it. On the other hand we have seen mixed messages on marijuana use, here in the Northwest, and across the country,” Lineberry emphasized. “As for alcohol use there is still a lot of community culture around the rite of passage of youth drinking, and a lot of mixed messages about when it is OK, and when it is not.”
KCPC also recognizes North Idaho has a higher crime rate in the state, even higher than Ada County, and Boise, where the population is greater. However, some of this is not from Idaho County-area youth.
“People come to play in Idaho, and that doesn’t always include good behaviors, or good choices,” Lineberry added.
Idaho Kids Count is a nonprofit organization bringing data and research to conversations that affect Idaho’s children.
SIDE BAR INFO:
Kids Count statistics:
Economic well-being (Idaho ranks 20th): Children in poverty in 2005-18 percent, in 2012, 21 percent; children whose parents lack secure employment in 2008-26 percent; in 2012-28 percent; child living in household with a high house cost burden in 2005-30 percent and in 2012, 32 percent; teens not in school and not working were at 8 percent in 2008 and 9 percent in 2012.
Education (Idaho ranks 33rd): Children not enrolled in preschool number 69 percent in 2005-07, and 65 percent in 2010-12; fourth graders not proficient in reading were at 67 percent for 2005-13; eighth graders not proficient in math were at 70 percent in 2005, 64 percent in 2013; high school students not graduating on time numbered 20 percent 2005-06, and 16 percent 2011-12.
Health (Idaho ranks 20th): Low birthweight babies-6.7 percent in 2005, 6.4 percent in 2012; children without health insurance-14 percent in 2008, 8 percent in 2012; child and teen deaths per 100,000-32 in 2005, 28 in 2010; teens who abuse alcohol and drugs-10 percent in 2005-06, 6 percent in 2011-12.
Family and Community (Idaho ranks at number 11): Children in single-parent families-23 percent in 2005, 27 percent in 2012; children in families where the household lacks a high school diploma-13 percent in 2005, 10 percent in 2013; children living in high poverty areas- 1 percent in 2000, 5 percent in 2012; teen births per 1,000-38 in 2005, 28 in 2012.
Overall rankings include Utah at 11, Washington at 18, Wyoming at 19, Oregon at 30, Montana at 31, California at 40 and Nevada at 48.
Top/bottom of the list:
The top five overall states are Massachusetts, Vermont, Iowa, New Hampshire and Minnesota.
The bottom five are Arizona, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico and Mississippi.