Kids Count ratings creep up

Cole County improved its ranking from 41 to 38 in the annual Kids Count in Missouri 2012 Data Book, which rates Missouri counties on children’s issues involving economic well-being, health, protection and safety and education.

The rankings, released by Partnership for Children, the University of Missouri’s Office of Social and Economic Data Analysis (OSEDA) and Children’s Trust Fund, rate counties from 1-115, with 1 being the best. Platte County received the best ranking in the state and St. Louis City received the worst.

Charron Townsend, president of Partnership for Children, said this year’s data show the percent of children living in poverty in Missouri is continuing to grow.

“We know poverty negatively affects a child’s health, education and social and emotional development,” Townsend said. “If we don’t address the core issue of poverty, our children will continue to suffer.”

The data, released Tuesday, looks at 10 issues and compares them with five years ago.

In Cole County, four areas improved from 2007-11. They include births to mothers without a high school diploma, violent deaths to people ages 15-19, annual high school dropouts and births to teens ages 15-19.

Five areas worsened in the county, including students enrolled in free or reduced lunch, infant mortality, child deaths to ages 1-14, child abuse and neglect and out-of-home placement entries.

The number of low birthweight infants remained the same.

Dr. Tracy Greever-Rice, director of OSEDA, said the data show the number of children who rely on MO HealthNet for Kids (Medicaid) for health insurance has steadily increased over the past five years. In the state, the percentage has increased by nearly 5 percent. In Cole County, the percentage has increased by more than 13 percent.

“This tells us that more kids are getting access to care, but it also tells us that more are living in poverty,” Greever-Rice said.

That’s one reason why state Sen. Paul LeVota says he’s an advocate for Medicaid expansion in the state.

“It makes sense and will help protect our kids for the future,” LeVota said. “Health care for kids is really important.”

For an online version of the Kids Count in Missouri 2012 Data Book, visit www.oseda.missouri.edu/kidscount.

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