As the entrepreneurs, leaders, and workers of tomorrow, children are vital to our country’s growth, prosperity, and well-being. When children thrive, our nation thrives. That is why the Annie E. Casey Foundation has produced the KIDS COUNT® Data Bookevery year for nearly three decades: it provides an annual snapshot of how America’s children and families are faring in every state and across the nation.
The 2017 KIDS COUNT® Data Book focuses on key trends in child well-being over the last six years (roughly 2010-2015) – a period in which the country continued its economic recovery. These key trends are a measure of child well-being in the four domains most needed to thrive: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.
The 2017 Data Book shows some steady improvements in economic well-being for Missouri’s children. More preschoolers are enrolled in Missouri schools and more of our 4th graders are proficient in reading. More Missouri children have health insurance and the number of teens affected by drug abuse decreased.
Keep in mind that while Missouri trends are based on overall numbers, the trends are likely different for specific subgroups (such as ethnic and racial minority families, military families). So targeted investments must continue in Missouri that support:
Family stability (poverty remains entrenched in distressed communities)
Child safety (leading cause of death remains accidents; teen suicides increased)
Education (adolescents lag behind in math proficiency)
The geography of poverty for children in Missouri means that they are in poor families in very poor neighborhoods – a double burden. Being surrounded by poverty limits a child’s opportunity and is a catalyst for them to continue a cycle of poverty as they grow.
“Our role is to share reliable data and stories that reflect areas of success, as well as those areas the need enhanced focus,” said Bill Dent, Executive Director of Missouri Family and Community Trust (FACT). “We look forward to influencing the story of children – one of our state’s most important investments.”
Missouri Family and Community Trust (FACT) is a not-for-profit organization serving as the Annie E. Casey sponsored KIDS COUNT® organization in Missouri - Missouri KIDS COUNT®. ARCHS serves as FACT’s KIDS COUNT® representative in the St. Louis region. The Annie E. Casey Foundation invests in a network of KIDS COUNT® organizations across the country that promotes the Foundation’s annual Data Book.
ARCHS is awarding state-funded, no cost access into an IT e-learning system for Microsoft products to more than a dozen selected high schools from local, under-resourced school districts. These area high schools will receive online curriculum and industry-recognized certifications that assist students in developing digital skills ranging from fundamental technology to preparation for career/college roles in computer science.
In addition, ARCHS’ funding of the IT e-learning system will enable educators’ success by providing them professional development resources and train-the-trainer sessions needed to keep their technical skills current. Without ARCHS’ support, the high cost of Microsoft certification exams is often a barrier to students from low-income families, even if the high school can afford to purchase the student curriculum and educator resources/training.
ARCHS will track the use of resources, trainings, and number/types of certificates earned by students in order to identify any needed improvements during the two-year, $250,000 program that will begin August 2017.
State economists estimate Missouri has 5,000 open jobs requiring some form of Microsoft skills certification. The new state partnership between Microsoft Imagine Academy (MIA, formerly IT Academy), Missouri Department of Social Services, and federal TANF block grants is similar to other states that also have used MIA to deploy the high school program leading to in-demand occupations.
Locally, the partnership between ARCHS, Microsoft US Public Sector/Education – South Central Region, Northwest Council for Computer Education (NCCE), En Pointe Technologies, and area high schools/districts seeks to bridge the STEM skills gap between the region’s career/college-bound young adults, high demand STEM labor markets, and improved economic/social circumstances.
During the 2016-2017 school year, an ARCHS' community partnership with Purina® has introduced Mutt-i-grees® to theAfter School for All Partnership for St. Louis (ASAP). Over the past year, the staffs of ASAP's 30 after school program sites have participated in Mutt-i-grees® trainings, with many locations implementing the curricula in fun and innovative ways.
Mutt-i-grees®seeks to build calm, confident, and caring children. Its innovative PreK-12 social/emotional learning curriculum highlights the unique characteristics of shelter pets (mutts) to teach essential skills for academic and life success.
The project is designed for use in various classroom settings, character education, after school programs, and libraries. More than 4,000 schools in over 40 states are using the curriculum, often in conjunction with bullying prevention and efforts to enhance school climate. Lesson plans align with the National Health Education Standards and Common Core State Standards.
Locally, Purina® provides professional development from North Shore Animal League of New York, grade-level lesson plans, pre-post evaluation by Yale University's School of the 21st Century, animal visits by local assistance/therapy pet organizations, and library resources. At the end of this school year, many ASAP sites were visited by dogs from CHAMP.
Photo:A CHAMP assistance dog visits the ASAP after school program at Mann Elementary School. Photo by Diane Page.
As part of this year's Child Advocacy Day, MissouriKIDS COUNT® released the annual county rankings of child well-being. The county rankings this year are based on six indicators – poverty, food insecurity, preventable hospitalizations, child asthma ER visits, births to teens, and graduation rates. Several hundred child advocates attended the release event on April 6, 2017 in Jefferson City. Pictured above: Child care advocates representing Missouri's 20 community partnerships under the direction of the Family and Community Trust (FACT).
Trends and notable findings for 2017 include:
•Poverty generally is declining, but poverty density is increasing. More children are living in high poverty areas in Missouri, more children are homeless, and more children are uninsured.
•Births to teens, graduation rates and teen unintentional injuries are improving.
•Hospitalizations for children ages 1-19 have increased for both mental/behavioral and substance abuse diagnoses.
•Race Disparities – teen birth rates for Black/African American teens was 1.5 times that of Whites; child asthma ER rates for Black/African American children is more than 8 times that for Whites; the preventable hospitalizations and low birth weight rates for Blacks/African Americans are more than twice as high as for Whites.
FACT is a nonprofit organization serving as the Annie E. Casey sponsored KIDS COUNT® organization in Missouri. ARCHS serves as FACT’s KIDS COUNT® representative in the St. Louis region.