Nancy Vaughan: Newest Kids Count data shows we have more work to do

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By Nancy Vaughan | For The Herald Bulletin Feb 25, 2018 
The Indiana Youth Institute (IYI) released the 2018 Kids Count report earlier this month, providing an annual snapshot of child well-being by county and state.
Indiana ranks 28th among all states and while the IYI report doesn’t provide overall ranks for counties, individual county measures are ranked in a county profile.
The good news for our county, state and nation is that economic indicators are generally improved. The bad news, especially for our county, is in the area of safety, with many of the statistics related to opioid abuse. Indiana has seen a 58 percent increase in the number of children entering foster homes, attributing much of the rise to the opioid epidemic.
Madison County ranks in the top 10 counties for seven of nine child safety issues:
· Children in Need of Services (CHINS) — increased to 604 cases in 2016 from 346 in 2013.
· Substantiated child neglect, substantiated child sexual abuse and substantiated child physical abuse increased nearly 60 percent overall, placing Madison County in the top five in the state. The county ranks 14th for child abuse and neglect cases per 1,000 children at 37.4 percent — more than double the state rate.
· Termination of parental rights case filings increased more than 40 percent.
· Juvenile delinquency and status offense cases decreased; however, Madison County still ranks in the top five counties.
Early childhood statistics for our county have the best overall rankings with marked improvement in number of licensed childcare providers. We rank in the top 15 counties and have improved six percentage points in the number of licensed slots per 100 children (19.4). This is great news for our United Way as this has been a key focus of our work. However, we are ranked eighth for monthly average children on the waiting list for Child Care Development Fund vouchers at 155 — up from 79 in 2013 — and we continue to work on increasing the number of high quality providers across the county.
Reflecting state and national trends, many economic indicators have improved, although we rank high in two areas of need:
· Monthly average number of persons issued food stamps (19,379, down from 22,835).
· Monthly average number of families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) at 220, down from 328.
There is a reduced percentage of children in poverty (from 29.6 to 24.7) and an increase in household ($45,853) and per capita ($35,953) incomes, although the county still ranks 79th and 70th, respectively, of 92 counties.
Health and education indicators are a mixed bag.
The good news is a decline in the number of uninsured children (5.4 percent from 8.1 percent), a slight increase in mothers receiving first trimester prenatal care and a decrease in mothers who reported smoking during pregnancy. Despite these improvements, the county did see an increase in number of low birth weight babies, and we still rank high for infant mortality.
While high school graduation rates remained steady, we were in the bottom 10 counties for eighth grade students passing ISTEP English/Language Arts (50.4 percent from 76.7 percent) and eighth grade students passing ISTEP Math (42.6 percent from 77.7 percent). We also saw substantial decreases in fourth grade ISTEP passage, ranking 73rd and 61st of 92 counties.
For more information on 2018 Kids Count in Indiana, visit