LOUISVILLE, Ky. (FOX 56) — Are the lives of Kentucky children getting better, worse, or staying the same?
Kentucky Youth Advocates addressed those questions with newly released data in ‘The 2022 Kentucky KIDS COUNT County Data Book’, published by Kentucky Youth Advocates and sponsors Aetna Better Health of Kentucky, Kosair Charities, and Charter Communities.
The data is broken down into several categories, including economic security, education, health, family, and community.
There is some positive news to report, including fewer young people in incarceration and a drop in teen pregnancy.
The number of Kentucky children living in poverty decreased as well, however, the same report also sheds light on problem areas.
Terry Brooks with Kentucky Youth Advocates said, “We know that over 200,000 boys and girls today woke up in poverty.”
The 2022 data shows that the state’s rate for children living in poverty sits at 19%. The last time Kentucky Youth Advocates released this data was in 2015, when it was worse at 25%.
Brooks said that between urban and rural parts of Kentucky, children’s poverty is identical.
“In the poorest parts of Louisville, that childhood poverty rate is at 40%. In the six most rural counties in Kentucky, all in southeast Kentucky, the poverty rate is 40%,” Brooks said.
The latest data also shows unprecedented spikes in the child welfare system.
Dana Poynter, executive director of Nightlight Christian Adoptions and Healing Homes Foster Care said there are about 86 hundred kids in Kentucky’s foster care, and out of 120 counties in Kentucky, the average is 72 kids per county.
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“That number represents all children under the age of 18, who enter the foster care system, even for a short period of time, over a three-year period of time,” Poynter said.
The report also showed a 13% increase, over seven years, with children in foster care, and the number of children who are exiting foster care and reuniting with their parents has also dipped in the last seven years as well.
“I think that can be attributed to the pandemic and the continued opioid crisis,” Poynter said. “And financial insecurity, that’s been shown to be associated with abuse and neglect and in this economy; Just the price of food and fuel alone cuts into everybody’s budget.”
The data report also showed that the number of high school students graduating remains the same, but the number of children starting kindergarten has dropped by six percent, compared to where it was during the 2016-2017 school year.
The data can be viewed as a call for Kentuckians to take action.
November is ‘National Adoption Awareness Month’ and Nightlight is trying to fundraise and talk to parents about fostering.