The Kids Count in Michigan Data Book released the newest information regarding youth in the state.
The information also ranked each county on the overall status of child well-being using indicators to help provide a larger picture.
Overall, the counties ranked the best for well-being were Ottawa, Livingston and Clinton counties while the lowest-ranked counties were Clare, Roscommon and Lake.
The rankings were out of 82 counties as Keweenaw County was not included because it lacked data for most indicators.
This is the first time since 1992 the Kids County in Michigan Data Book adding rankings.
“In Michigan, (the rankings) will help us to have a more targeted approach to making the necessary changes in improving the lies of all our children,” said Cari O’Connor, Montcalm County and Ionia County Great Start director. “We can learn from each other.”
The Data Book is a collaboration between the Michigan League of Public Policy and Michigan’s Children, which are both nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organizations concerned about the well-being of children and families.
The four areas of child well-being the report examines is economic security, health, family and community and eduction.
“We clearly see a connection between higher-income communities and better outcomes for kids, but even in more affluent counties, child poverty and the need for food assistance jumped dramatically,’’ said Jane Zehnder-Merrell, Kids Count in Michigan project director at the Michigan League for Public Policy, in a press release. “No area of the state escaped worsening conditions for children when it comes to economic security.”
Through the findings at the state level, more than a half million children lived in poverty in 2011, which is about $18,000 a year or less for a family of three.
Between 2005 and 2011, child poverty went up 28 percent while young children qualifying for food assistances went up by 55 percent.
The data also shows more than 33,000 children were confirmed victims of abuse or neglect.
Improvements included the decline of children in foster care, which decreased by 6,000 from 2005 to 2011, and an 8 percent drop in fourth graders not proficient in reading in the Michigan Educational Assessment Program.
Between 2005 and 2011 death rates for infants fell by 8 percent while the mortality rates for children ages 1 through 19 declined 11 percent.
According to the Kids Count in Michigan Data Book, out of the 82 counties that were ranked, Montcalm County ranked 58th with No. 1 being the best ranking.
Montcalm County’s child poverty increased by 56 percent between 2005 and 2011. Young children in the county qualifying for food assistance increased by 23 percent.
The confirmed victims of abuse and neglect — linked to poverty — rate almost tripled in Montcalm County.
Montcalm County ranked 21st for low-birthweight babies, with 6.6 percent of babies born too small compared to the 8.5 percent state rate.The county ranked 76 of 82 counties in children in investigated families, which occurred at a rate of 130 children in investigated families per 1,000 children, compared with the statewide rate of 73 per 1,000.
According to the Kids Count in Michigan Data Book, out of the 82 counties that were ranked, Ionia County ranked 33rd with No. 1 being the best ranking.
Ionia County’s child poverty increased by 57 percent between 2005 and 2011. Young children in the county qualifying for food assistance increased by 75 percent.
The confirmed victims of abuse and neglect — linked to poverty — rate doubled in Ionia County.
Ionia County ranked first of 49 counties in infant mortality with a rate of three deaths per 1,000 infants, compared with a rate of 7 per 1,000 statewide. The county’s poorest performance, though, was in eighth grade MEAP math scores, ranking 68th of 82 counties, with 80 percent of Ionia County eighth-graders not proficient in math, compared with 71 percent statewide.
According to the Kids Count in Michigan Data Book, out of the 82 counties that were ranked, Kent County ranked 29th with No. 1 being the best ranking.
Kent County’s child poverty increased by 42 percent between 2005 and 2011. Young children in the county qualifying for food assistance increased by 26 percent.
The confirmed victims of abuse and neglect — linked to poverty — rate increased by 50 percent in Kent County.
Kent County ranked 11th of 56 counties in child/teen deaths among children and teens ages 1-19. Child and teen deaths occurred at a rate of 21 deaths per 100,000 children, compared with a rate of 28 per 100,000 statewide. The county’s worst performance was in births to teens, ages 15-19. With a ranking of 57 of 82 counties, births to teens occurred at a rate of roughly 37 births per 1,000 teens, compared with 32 per 1,000 statewide.
Rankings and the data
O’Connor said the first-ever county rankings can help highlight areas going well for the county, help people learn from others’ successes and also their failures.
“My hope is that we will use this information for a more targeted approach,” O’Connor said. “For example, per the data, some issues need to be addressed statewide like children in poverty, but other areas have more staggering needs in infant mortality so interventions can be county specific for the best impact.”
The Kids Count in Michigan Data Book is used on so many levels for planning purposes and determining issues the county should be targeting.
“Many other agencies and organizations in Ionia County use Kids Count as a starting point for data driven decisions,” O’Conner said. “Locally, Ionia County Economic Alliance and MICAN look for trends in the data to embark on their priorities.”