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2010-02-03 / News

Poor economy hurts local children

by CAROL SEIFFERLEIN features editor

Nancy Dean Nancy Dean As might be expected, the poor economy has taken its toll on the well-being of children in Sanilac County.

The most recent figures in the Kids Count in Michigan Data Book compare child well being between 2007 and previous years, unless otherwise indicated.

Poverty

According to the report,the number of Sanilac County children 0-17 in poverty actually went down a fraction between 2005 and 2007. However, that may reflect the 4.68% drop in the number of children living in the county over the two year period.

In 2005 there were 2,134 children ages 0-17 and there were 2,002 in 2007, a drop of .5%. The rate was only slightly higher at 19.7% than the state average of 19.3%

"This is a very critical time for our young children and programs that keep them healthy and help them learn...Focus on early childhood needs has tremendous impact and is a significant investment in the economic development of our community," said Nancy Dean, director of the Great Start Collaborative of Sanilac County and the Sanilac County Kids' Connection. The Kids' Connection is a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing the quality of life for youth in Sanilac County by ensuring adequate services, and that programs and support are accessible to every family.

The percentage of children receiving free or reduced priced lunches in school increased 6% to 47.8%. The percentage of children aged 0-18 insured by Medicaid went up 4.4% to 42.1%, compared with 35.3% statewide. In addition the percent of children in the food assistance program in 2008 increased by 4.2% to 27.1%, compared to 22.8% across the state.

As far as child support paid, children received less. The percentage of those owed support increased by 2.6% to 18.5%, which is less than the 20.7% state average. The percent of those who receive no child support went up to 1.9% from 11.4, still substantially less than the 30.5% state rate. However, 46.1% received less than 70% of what they were owned, up from 39.6%.

Abuse/neglect

According to the report, the rate of confirmed cases of child abuse or neglect increased by 2.3% to 12.1%, essentially the same as the state rate in 2007.

The percentage of children who were removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect went up from 4.1% to 5%, somewhat less than the 5.9% rate across the state.

The county is operating an intensive in-home counseling program for families with children at risk of being placed in out-of-home care to keep children and parents together and reduce the cost of this incredibly expensive program.

Child health

There was good news and bad about children's health in 2007.

On the plus side fewer pregnant women received inadequate prenatal care, a decline from 28.4% to 22.4%, , about the same rate as the state percentage. In addition births to teenagers aged 15-19 dropped from 39.9% to 32.9%.

The rate of babies born with a birth defect was essentially the same, with 3.4% in 2004-2006 to 3.1% in 2007.

On the other hand the rate of low birth weight babies increased from 5.9% to 6.4%, still lower than the 8.4% across the state.

Education

Children tested better on the MEAP tests in 2008, but there were more high school dropouts.

In 2003 24.5% of fourth graders did not pass the math tests compared to only 9.6% in 2008. The improvement was not as dramatic for the eighth graders, but no- pass rates went from 37.3% in 2003 to 22.1% in 2008. Sanilac County children test better than the state average with a 12.1% no-pass rate for fourth graders and 25.5% rate for eighth graders in 2008.

The percent of children in special education in 2008 was 13.3%, which had not changed from 2006-2007.

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