Study tries to make Utah's KIDS COUNT, pushes for improvements

May 14 2012 - 11:05pm

OGDEN -- There is a lot of room for improvement when it comes to the health and well-being of Utah kids, according to the Voices for Utah Children's "Utah KIDS COUNT" study, released Monday.

The study, which has been released annually for the past 17 years, provides comprehensive data on a wide variety of child well-being indicators, including analysis of items ranging from prenatal care to high school graduation.

The indicators focus on demographics, health, education and economic security.

With more than a third of Utah's population younger than 20, KIDS COUNT Director Terry Haven said the 2012 version of the study shows some startling numbers.

"A lot of our health indicators are improving, but we still have some major areas of concern," she said. "The biggest among those is childhood poverty."

According to the study, almost 50,000 more Utah children lived in poverty in 2010 than did in 2007.

Controlling poverty is important because a child living in those conditions typically encounters a host of other obstacles, Haven said.

"When you start with poverty, usually a lot of other negative things will follow, so anything we as a state can do to decrease poverty would be a big step in the right direction."

Poverty affects a child's ability to learn, Haven said, and there is a large "achievement gap" between low-income children and middle- to high-income children when entering grade school.

"We need to have quality preschool programs for low-income kids," she said. "The goal is to have them enter school and be at the same level of their peers. That's not happening right now."

The study reveals that, as of 2010, 48,000 single moms in Utah have children younger than 18 and more than 18,000 grandparent households are responsible for their grandchildren.

Also in 2010, there were 11,530 victims of child abuse.

Haven said the hope of the study data is to tell the story of Utah communities and to bring about positive changes within them.

"Having the data out there is nice, but it won't mean anything if it's not used," she said.

"We want people to actually use these numbers when they make policy decisions. We want people to be talking about it around the dinner table and to be conscious of what is happening to our children."

By the numbers

19 percent: Increase in children between 2000 and 2010

48,000: Single moms with kids younger than 18

18,000-plus: Grandparent households responsible for their grandchildren

50,000: Projected increase of children who were living in poverty in 2010 than in 2007

56,000: Children affected by foreclosure between '07 and '09

11,530: Victims of child abuse in 2010

73 percent: Moms-to-be receiving adequate prenatal care

166,000: Projected increase in students by 2021

Click here to view the full study.


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