Local educator James Mangels notes that a study released recently by Kentucky Youth Advocates paints a picture of the community and the needs that its families have.

“As educators, we need to be cognizant of the complete profile of our community and how it compares to the rest of Kentucky and our nation,” observes Mangels, the director of student services and personnel for Trigg County Public Schools.

Kentucky Youth Advocates released its 2021 Kentucky Kids Count County Data Book on Nov. 10, taking a look at the lives of youth in all 120 counties and considering the impact of economic security, education, health and family and community on their lives.

In Trigg County, the study’s researchers found that the number of teen births had decreased, dropping to 29.6 per 1,000 females ages 15 to 19 in the years from 2017 to 2019, in comparison to 42.9 in 2012 to 2014.

Additionally, the county had more children exiting foster care, 76% in 2018 to 2020, than it did in the years from 2013 to 2015.

This was a point Mangels thought stood out in the study, and he noted that there were collaborative efforts between the Department for Community Based Services and foster parents to reunite children with their families after they were placed in foster care.

He also noted that, at 3.3 for every 100 students enrolled in the district in 2018-2019, the county’s out-of-school suspension rates were significantly lower than the state average of 9.6 per 100 students for that same year.

“This is a direct result of teaching and reinforcing positive behaviors and rewarding students for exhibiting such behaviors,” Mangels said of rates that had also improved in the county, from 4.5 in the 2013-2014 year.

The 2021 study shone a spotlight on racial issues in the state, in particular examining data separated by race and ethnicity and considering the impact of systemic racial injustice on children and families and solutions to advance racial equity so every child can thrive, officials with Kentucky Youth Advocates explained.

Births to MothersAmong the findings for the local community: in 2017-2019, there was a 31.1% incidence of births to mothers without a high school degree among the county’s white population; for black and Latinx populations, those births weren’t calculated for fewer than six events.

Additionally, there were 10% of white children in poverty in the county in the years from 2015 to 2019, although figures identifying the percentages of local black and Latinx children in poverty were suppressed because the estimate was unreliable. The study defined poverty as the percentage of children under age 18 who live in families with incomes below 100% of the federal poverty threshold.

In considering children in foster care, Kentucky Youth Advocates found that, in Trigg County, 21.6 black youth under age 18 per 1,000 children in that same age group lived in foster care due to abuse or neglect in 2018-2020. Among white youth, that rate was 26.5, and the rate among Latinx children was not calculated for fewer than six events.

The study also noted that, for every 1,000 children ages 10 to 17 in the county who were booked into a secure juvenile detention facility last calendar year, 9.7 were white children; none of these children were black or Latinx.

The study identified 3,086 children in Trigg County who were ages 0 to 17 as of last year, most of them or 2,528 who are white.

That figure also includes 218 black youth from ages 0 to 17, 95 Latinx youth, 227 of two or more races, four Alaskan native and Native American youth and six youth identified as Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander.

There were no Asian youth in the county.

The study identified eight youth living in Trigg County in 2020 as “all other races.”

In its profile of the local community, the 2021 County Data Book considered 17 factors spread across four categories of economic security, education, health and family and community.

Factors ImproveAmong the factors related to economic security, there were improvements in three of those factors while the fourth, i.e., children living in food insecure households, found that the baseline data was either not comparable or overlapped with the latest timeframe, or the change was neither positive nor negative.

In education, the county saw a slight decrease in one category, with the number of high school students graduating on time dropping from 93.8% in 2015-2016 to 93.5% in 2020-2021.

There was no change in the numbers of student homelessness, which remained at 1% in 2020-2021, as it had in 2015-2016.

That is below last year’s 3% in the state.

Among health factors, Trigg County saw improvements in smoking during pregnancy, children under 19 with health insurance and teen births but experienced an increase in the percentage of low-birthweight babies.

Again, data for the percentage of young adults with health insurance was not comparable, overlapped with the latest timeframe or had a change that was neither negative nor positive, the study found.

In family and community, the county had an increase in the percentage of births to mothers without a high school degree, the number of children in foster care and the number of youth incarcerated in the juvenile justice system.

The only improvement was in the percentage of children in foster care leaving the system to be reunited with their families, with 76% leaving foster care in 2018-20 in comparison to the 71% in the years from 2013 to 2015.

This year marks the 31st edition of the publication of the County Data Book, which brings attention to the needs of the state’s children and encourages efforts to strive for improvement.

“We at Kentucky Youth Advocates believe that when we measure outcomes for kids, we can change outcomes for kids,” agency officials noted in a press release introducing the newest Kentucky Kids Count County Data Book.

The book is available online at kyyouth.org/kentucky-kids-count.

Reach Tonya S. Grace at 270-887-3240 or tgrace@kentuckynewera.com.

Reach Tonya S. Grace at 270-887-3240 or tgrace@kentuckynewera.com.

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