The latest edition of the national KIDS COUNT Data Book is out and and shows some gains and some setbacks for our area. We asked Carol Willis, executive director of the Rome-Floyd County Commission on Children and Youth, the following questions based on a quick review of the latest Kids County data. Willis also will join us on Hometown Headlines Radio Edition at 8:40 a.m. Thursday on WRGA 98.7 FM and 1470 AM.
Question: Georgia continues to move up, slowly but steadily. What factors do you think are behind the improvement?
Answer: In 1990, when the inaugural Kids Count publication was presented, Georgia ranked 48 out of 50 states on indicators related to child well being. Zell Miller, who was governor in 1990, committed to making a change in Georgia. Georgia’s best rank has been 37 in 2012. Last year, Georgia was 43, and this year it is 42. The most improved indicators that I see have been in the teen pregnancy rates and the high school graduation rates. These rates have improved but need to keep improving. Georgia is fortunate to have the largest state collaborative effort focused on the well being of children through Georgia Family Connection. Georgia Family Connection builds awareness of issues by providing updated data and encouraging community collaboration focused on the specific concerns for each community.
Question: In Rome/Floyd County, what is working best for our kids? And what needs the most direct attention?
Answer: The indicators that have improved significantly in Rome and Floyd County are the teen pregnancy rates and the rates of on-time graduation from high school. There has been a community wide effort focused on these two issues. The issue that needs the most attention is child abuse and neglect. Floyd County has more children per capita in state custody than any other county in the state. Child abuse and child neglect are our biggest concerns, and we know these issues are related to issues of poverty, mental health and substance abuse.
Question: Your best suggestion for parents/grandparents/caregivers going forward?
Answer: Focus on making a difference in your realm of influence – your children, grandchildren, neighborhoods, and churches. If you are interested in being a foster parent or in supporting those who are foster parents, contact me at the Rome-Floyd County Commission on Children and Youth at [email protected] and I will connect you with the right person.
A CLOSER LOOK AT SOME OF THE DATA
Some of the numbers for our area from the Data Book are chilling. We drilled into just one section, children living in poverty, and share these sad statistics.
- Floyd County: In 2008, 5,930 children were living in poverty (25.3 percent) vs. 7,134 in 2012, or 31.7 percent of children in the county. Both reports were four to five points higher than the state percentages.
- Bartow County: From 4,771 kids to 6,157 in 2012, or from 18 percent to almost 24 percent.
- Gordon County: 2,606 kids to 3,742, from 18.5 percent to 26 percent.
- Polk County: From 2,584 kids to 3,211, or from 23.4 percent to 30 percent.
- Chattooga County: From 1,364 kids or 23.1 percent, to 1,781 or 31.4 percent.