The data book measures the well-being of children and young adults and if outcomes in the commonwealth have improved, worsened, or stayed the same over the last five years.
2021 trends showed improvements or stability across family and home life, health, education, and economic security, but that doesn’t hold true for all communities, especially those who identify as Black or mixed race.
Family and home life:
Children are entering foster care more than leaving, according to the report, with an increase of 14.5%.
A total of 53,868 children, nearly equal to the whole population of Jessamine County, are living in foster care at the moment. Less Kentucky children are being returned to their families as well: 7,205 or 3%.
In Kentucky, Black parents, especially men, are incarcerated at higher rates than parents of other races; for example, 16.1 per 1,000 Black parents are in state custody, compared to 2.8 per 1,000 for white parents.
The Kentucky Youth Advocate website highlights that progress has been uneven for children depending on their race and ethnicity. The use of group homes and institutions in Kentucky has fallen over time for non-Hispanic white children but has risen for non-Hispanic, Black, and multiracial children.
Overall, low birth weight only rose .1%, but Black mothers experienced 16.6 low-weight births per 100 births compared to a rate of 8.7 for white mothers and 6.4 for Latino mothers.
Fewer mothers reported they smoked during pregnancy, 26,795, which is a 3.1% decline.
Kentucky Youth Advocates advocated for strengthening access to quality health coverage at all stages of pregnancy and closing gaps in the use of support programs by different racial groups will reduce disparities in critical birth outcomes for Black babies and mothers.
The databook shows a significant decrease in teen births, 11.4%. Kentucky still ranks 13th for the highest teen pregnancy rate according to the CDC.
Kentucky Youth Advocates also advocated for stronger programming for teens as well as showing young women and girls the opportunities available to them if they delay childbearing.
According to the report, Latino and Latina students are less likely to be screened as ready for kindergarten when compared to their peers, but the screener hasn’t been tested for dual language learners. New America reports that nationally 1 in 4 American children could be dual language learners.
Out-of-school suspensions increased by 1.9%. Suspensions spiked for all students during their sixth, seventh, and eighth-grade years. Black students experience out-of-school suspensions at a rate of 47.8 per 100 students, but white students only 10.9 per 100.
Kentucky Youth Advocates said utilizing corrective actions that do not exclude children from the classroom, such as mental health supports and restorative justice practices, could reduce the disproportionate impact on Black student learning.
Students planning for their future education rose 16%. Kentucky students are nearly 2% more likely to graduate on time compared to the 2015-16 data, going from 88.6% to 90% in 2021.
While rates of graduation are fairly similar between groups, only one in four Black and Latino students are prepared to succeed in a college or career path.
Children living at or below 100% of the poverty level fell 5% for all of Kentucky.
Black and Latino children, however, are still experiencing poverty at a higher rate than the 2014 statistic of 25.9%, about 10% higher. One in five Kentucky children of color have experienced food insecurity.
In Lexington, the gap is even bigger with 42% of Black children living in poverty.
The rate is also high in parts of eastern Kentucky especially Clay, Lee, and Owsley counties.
Kentucky Youth Advocates said permanently expanding the federal child tax credit could and increasing use of programs like Child Care Assistance Program could offset holes in income for all families.
Researchers with the Annie E Casey Foundation have been compiling this data for more than 30 years, and state leaders have used the data to shape policies and programs to help students statewide.