There were more births to teens and mothers without diplomas, more high school drop-outs and more children enrolled in free and reduced lunch programs in St. Francois County according to the latest Kids Count survey.
The annual report tracked 10 well-being indicators for children in 2007 to see how well they are doing. It also ranks the 114 counties in Missouri and the city of St. Louis on the indicators. St. Francois County moved up in the rankings slightly, moving from 72 to 70.
The county showed improvement on the other indicators. There were fewer low birth weight infants, fewer deaths, fewer cases of child abuse and neglect, fewer out of home placements.
But the county still has more child abuse cases than state averages, as well as more infant deaths, more births to teen mothers and mothers without diplomas and more children on the free and reduced lunch program. The latter indicates poverty is increasing.
Al Sullivan, director of the St. Francois County Community Partnership, called it good news and bad news. The Partnership’s mission is to strengthen families.
“In 2002, when we started looking at this report, we ranked 105 out of 114. This time we are in at 70 and that is a marked improvement,” Sullivan said. “In 2003, we went to 98, then to 87 and by this date we are down to 70. So that puts in a little better shape than we were in those days, but we are not even an average county on some of these measures, so we can’t take a great deal of pride in it.”
Sullivan is also part of the Project Sunlight task force which works to reduce child abuse and neglect. He was pleased the county continued to have fewer cases of that and said he believed the public awareness campaign and other efforts have helped.
When Project Sunlight began, Sullivan used to tell groups that the county’s child abuse rate was higher than that of any surrounding county. “Now there are three counties under us and two above us, so we have improved in that lot,” he said. “Some progress is being made. It gives merit to the argument that if a community studies a problem and harps long enough, you can bring some resources to bear to improve things.
“But how many child abuse cases are too many? We are still 13 points above the state average, and I would like us to be better than average. A county of this size and resources should be better than average.”
Other notable demographics included in the report:
• A larger percentage of parents paid child support into the state system
• Licensed child care capacity increased
• Fewer children were served by the MC Plus/Medicaid programs (due to legislative cuts)
• Fewer children with elevated lead levels
• Average wages rose slightly
• More children in single parent families
For the complete report, visit dailyjournalonline.com
Renee Jean can be reached 573-431-2010, ext. 117 or at email@example.com.