ANNAPOLIS – A child growing up in Maryland has the best chance for good health and happiness in Howard County, according to results from a state survey of factors affecting a child’s well-being released Tuesday. Montgomery, Carroll, Calvert, Frederick and Garrett also collected high scores on the eight indicators surveyed for the second year by Maryland’s Partnership for Children, Youth and Families, but only Howard showed up in the top ranking on every list. Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, at the survey’s release, also announced that the state’s childhood poverty rate declined for the fourth consecutive year.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Maryland’s childhood poverty rate has dropped from 16.3 percent in 1996 to 6.5 percent in 1999 and is far below the national average of 16.3 percent.
Still, Townsend said, there are some challenging issues for the state’s youngest citizens. The state’s average declined in the categories of low birth weights, high school program completion, high school diplomas, deaths due to injury, domestic violence, out-of-home placements, permanent placements, and homelessness among children. The categories are among those to compile a score on eight indicators – healthy babies, healthy children, children successful in school, children ready to learn, completing school, safe communities, economically stable communities and communities supporting family life.
The percentage of students who complete high school has dropped from 58.3 percent to 57.7 percent. The number of children who are victims of domestic violence has gone up from 312 to 503 (rate per 100,000.) And the percentage of children in foster care has remained the same at 76 percent.
The findings are part of the 2001 children well-being survey published by Maryland’s Partnership for Children, Youth and Families, which breaks down child well-being into several categories, compares the state’s figures to national figures and, for the first time, the report shows how local jurisdictions compare to one another.
The healthiest children, according to one indicator, live in Frederick, Montgomery, Howard and Kent counties. Allegany, Baltimore, Caroline and Wicomico counties have the lowest numbers in the state for healthy children.
The reports’ findings were used to determine the 16 counties to get a piece of the $4.5 million need-oriented grant offered by the state.
“With focused attention and dedication, we can really make an impact,” said Townsend of the 16 counties and Baltimore: Allegany, Baltimore County, Calvert, Caroline, Cecil, Charles, Dorchester, Frederick, Kent, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Queen Anne’s, St. Mary’s, Talbot, Washington, and Wicomico.
Bonnie A. Kirkland, special secretary for children, youth, and families, said the report’s data will be used “as a barometer” to track where the state invests money.
The grant will fund this year’s priority programs – school-based health centers, which treat children with substance abuse problems; home visiting, which provides support to teen parents; and disruptive youth programs, which provide support for disruptive school-age children.
“This grant will afford us the opportunity to figure out how to keep Kent County students in school,” said Nina Wilson, with pupil personnel in Kent County schools, which is receiving almost $200,000 from the grant. “I didn’t have anything to entice students to stay in school with but now I’m excited about the evening classes. It helps me do my job.” – 30 – CNS-1-16-01