State data on kids revealed

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Sarah Hughes explains the Kids Count program Friday to a group of local non-profit organizations. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Sarah Hughes explains the Kids Count program Friday to a group of local non-profit organizations.

Poverty number has doubled

By Rachel Segura

Journal Staff Writer

Colorado’s number of children living in poverty more than doubled between 2000 and 2010. Seventeen percent of children were living in poverty compared to 22 percent nationwide. This data was compiled for 2010 using 2009 information; next year, these numbers could change for the better or worse.

The 2012 Kids Count in Colorado! report ranked the 25 largest counties in the state using 12 different indicators such as health care, education, family and community to assess which counties have the highest child well-being factors. These counties account for 95 percent of children under 18 in Colorado. Montezuma County is one of those. It ranked 21 out of 25.

The data, however, does not signify that all of these indicators were negative. Some counties were stronger while others were weaker.

The campaign is designed to focus on the needs of children in the state of Colorado under these jurisdictions: early childhood education, K-12 education and child health care.

Residents in Montezuma and Dolores counties were given a presentation of information, brought together by the Montelores Early Childhood Council, regarding child well-being in their county. The data shocked some while others were not surprised.

In Montezuma County, 27 percent of children under the age of 18 are living in poverty. That’s compared to 17 percent in the state. Sixteen percent of children are uninsured, compared to the state’s 10 percent. Forty-six percent of fourth grade students are not proficient in reading, compared to 35 percent in the state.

Dolores County fared the same with 15 percent of its children living in poverty and 17 percent uninsured.

However, Sarah Hughes, Child Campaign Resource Director, said that the guidelines to determine the poverty level have not changed since 1963, when they were first applied. They have only been adapted for inflation.

“This isn’t a realistic picture for impoverished families,” Hughes said. “In 1963, families used one-third of their income on food, whereas today, they use about one-seventh of their income. The guidelines do not account for transportation expenses, childcare, or any benefits the family may receive.”

The poverty line for a family of four in 2009 was $22,050. If guidelines were measured with different indicators, the poverty line for a family of four should be $44,000.

As for health care, there are more than 1,000 kids in Montezuma county who are uninsured. But that percentage has gone down. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of children uninsured went down from 12 percent to 10 percent.

“I know that may seem like a small number, 2 percent, but that’s 20,000 more kids who could go to the doctor when they are sick or go to the hospital when they need to,” Hughes said.

The non-profit organizations at the presentation were encouraged to band together to decide what programs should be put forth to change some of those numbers.

“We have to work together and look at the data to determine what will be best for families and their children,” said Vangi McCoy, Montelores Early Childhood Council Coordinator.

She added that they have no plans as of yet, but they will use this report to determine each county’s weaknesses in order to begin implementing new proficient community programs.

Dan O’Connell, government affairs director for the Colorado Children’s Campaign, is the lobbyist for the campaign. He was there to provoke community members to speak on behalf of the children in their counties to protect and enhance education and health care incentives for underprivileged children.

“The one constituent not here is children,” O’Connell said. “So it’s easy for lawmakers to pass on policies that will benefit them. They don’t want to say they are against those things but they want to invest in policies that will be beneficial to a child’s future. Those under the age of 18, who can’t vote, aren’t here to speak up.”

O’Connell explained the difference between lobbying and advocacy by stating “personal stories, experience and successes” would be the way to advocate for this cause.

“It’s important to have relationships with your state legislators because they have zero knowledge about what’s going on in your community,” O’Connell said. “It’s up to you to share your success stories and problem areas so they can protect and expand programs.”

Extensive data for the state and counties can be found at coloradokids.org. To get involved with future projects regarding Kids Count, contact Vangi McCoy at 749-7017 or email her at mecc.coordinator@gmail.com.

rachels@cortezjournal.com