Kansas 2015 KIDS COUNT report reveals troubling long-term trends for state’s youngest children

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
October 20, 2015

TOPEKA – Since 1992, Kansas Action for Children has followed the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual summer release of a national KIDS COUNT Databook with a statewide report analyzing child trends at the state and county level. The 2015 Kansas KIDS COUNT report reveals that despite some modest gains, Kansas needs to do more to set young children on a pathway to success.

“This is more than just a set of data points,” said Kansas Action for Children President & CEO Shannon Cotsoradis. “This report represents pivotal moments in a child’s early years that can determine his or her entire life trajectory. Will a child grow up healthy? Go to college? Fall into the corrections system? Rely on public assistance as an adult? Overwhelmingly, these outcomes can be traced back to their life circumstances as a young child.”

The 2015 report indicates some modest gains in some areas from the previous year but reveals troubling long-term trends for Kansas’ youngest kids. Important indicators like infant mortality and the percentage of low birthweight babies have either stagnated or increased for the last five years. Availability of Early Head Start and Head Start – programs which help children and families overcome early barriers to success – still reveal minimal to no improvement. These critical factors during a child’s early years chart the course for a child’s life.

There were some improvements, however.

Echoing national trends attributed to the Affordable Care Act, Kansas made modest gains in several health care indicators. Most notably, the percentage of Kansas children without health insurance dropped to 5.5 percent in 2014, an all time low. This figure includes children who now receive private coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace and kids receiving public coverage due to “welcome mat” effect of the Affordable Care Act.

Additionally:

• More pregnant women are getting prenatal care – 81.9 percent (up .79 percent over the last five years).
• On-time child immunization rates show signs of improvement after a significant drop in recent years. However, Kansas is still down 3.3 percent over the last five years.
• Enrollment in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) increased to 55,469 Kansas children, up 3,845 since 2010.

Despite some modest gains, overall support for Kansas’ poorest children and their families continues to decline at the state level. Over the last five years, state policy changes resulted in sharp enrollment drops in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and child care assistance.  Additionally, supplemental analysis from Kansas Action for Children reveals enrollment drops for our youngest, poorest kids eligible for Medicaid. Average monthly enrollment of poverty level eligible children (ages 1-5) in the state Medicaid program has dropped by more than 6,000 children since 2012. Meanwhile, child poverty – though improved slightly at 17.7 percent – has not decreased significantly over the same time period and is far from pre-recession levels of 15 percent.

“Changes to TANF mean more hungry, unhealthy children growing up in poverty. Cutting off child care assistance to eligible families means parents can’t look for a job and improve their situation. These programs are critical investments in the youngest, poorest Kansans, creating the conditions they need to thrive later in life and ensuring today’s poor children don’t become tomorrow’s poor adults.”

Kansas Action for Children’s annual Kansas KIDS COUNT report measures county-by-county how kids are doing across more than 20 indicators of health, education and economic success. KIDS COUNT data is available for every Kansas county. Click here to download your county’s fact sheet.

To see how Kansas as a whole compares to other states, visit the online KIDS COUNT Data Center.

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Kansas KIDS COUNT is produced by Kansas Action for Children and funded, in part, by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The findings and conclusions presented are those of KAC and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the foundation.

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