Report Shows Poverty Continues to Plague Kentucky Kids
A report released Tuesday suggests Kentucky needs to do a better job to ensure its kids get the best start in life. The Annie E. Casey Foundation's 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book ranks the Commonwealth 34th nationally for overall child well-being.
Terry Brooks, the executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, explains economic well-being is a sore spot, with the state ranking 39th. And he says with one in four kids growing up in poor families, Kentucky needs commonsense, common-ground solutions to address economic stability.
"Kentucky doesn't put up with being in the bottom half of the nation when it comes to bourbon, or business or basketball, and we as a commonwealth can't put up with being in the bottom half of the nation when it comes to how our kids are doing," he says.
Brooks contends policies like a refundable State Earned Income Tax Credit or increasing child-care assistance eligibility to families with incomes up to 200 percent of the poverty level can help them without busting the budget in Frankfort.
In other indicators, the report ranks Kentucky 24th in education and 22nd in health.
Improvements in children's health are a silver lining in the findings, says Brooks, including 96 percent of Kentucky kids now covered by health insurance.
"Whenever Kentucky is batting 100 percent of improvement in any sector, we do need to hit the pause button and celebrate," he adds. "It does give us the message that Kentucky can make a positive difference when there's a laser-like focus on an arena."
Nationally, 95 percent of children have health insurance, which The Casey Foundation's Laura Speer, associate director for Policy Reform and Advocacy, says is a tremendous achievement that should not be jeopardized.
"This is a real success story, and we want to acknowledge the fact that the country has made a significant investment and that we have the highest percent of kids with health-insurance coverage that we've ever had as a country - and we want to keep those gains," says Speer.
The report credits key provisions of the Affordable Care Act, as well as investments in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, for the historic number of kids with health insurance.