Report Shows How Much - and How Little - Kids Count

A Special Report

T HE GOOD NEWS IS that Maryland's children are, in general, a tiny bit healthier and better prepared academically than they were a few years ago.
The bad news is that the state's children are more likely to be violent or to be victims of violence, and more of them are now living in poverty.
These are among the findings in a thorough report called "The Maryland KIDS COUNT Fact Book," published by a consortium of child welfare organizations with financial support from the Abell Foundation, The Baltimore Community Foundation, and the Louis and Henrietta Blaustein Foundation.
The report, issued on June 28 and covering the 1995 statistical year, paints a bleak picture for many children in Maryland, especially those who live in Baltimore City.
Though the state has the 5th highest per capita income, it ranks only 31st in the nation in terms of child well-being. It's 43rd overall in percent of low birth weight babies; 42nd in infant mortality; 23rd in child death rate; 27th in teen birth rate; 47th in juvenile violent crime arrest rate (ages 10 to 17), 26th in percent of teens not in school and not in the labor force, 27th in violent death rate (ages 15 to 19), 12th in percent of children in poverty, and 29th in percent of families with children headed by a single parent.
These overall statistics are skewed with the inclusion of Baltimore City factors. Not surprisingly, the city's children fare worst of all. The city scores last among the 24 subdivisions in the state in number of children in poverty, births to teens, low birthweight infants, infant mortality, teen violent death rate, indicated child abuse and neglect rate, juvenile related suspension rate, juvenile violent crime arrest rate, lowest satisfactory scores on the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program's third grade reading test (12.1%-but a slight improvement), and lowest on on-time graduation (39.4%-but again, a slight improvement).
Baltimore City is best in the state for children screened for lead poisoning, and it also ranked best in violence-related school suspensions, presumably because the school system has instituted extensive alternative educational programs for disruptive students. The report shows that the better off counties are economically, the better off the children are, although there are some surprises. Among neighboring counties, Anne Arundel ranked 23rd (only the City ranks worse) in child support payment problems, and its rates for juvenile violence, while still better than most, are worsening.
Baltimore County is showing improving education indicators and fewer instances of child abuse, but has slightly worse rates for child poverty and significantly worse rates of juvenile violent crime arrest, putting it 22nd out of 25.
Carroll County's only significant downward trend, as with others, was in the violence-related suspension rate, from 560 students in 1992-93 to 821 in 1994-95. Frederick County's youth are likewise trending toward violence, but education figures are all improving. Harford County scored better in almost every category; only the violence-related suspension rate, number of low birthweight infants, and lead poisoning screening showed declines. While Howard County showed improvement in every area except child safety, it scored worse in all categories of teen violence.
The KidsCount Report also shows that, statewide, many more children are receiving some sort of aid. 25.5% more of Maryland's children received AFDC in 1995 than in 1990; 58.7% more were enrolled in Medicaid; 61.1% participated in the WIC program; 45.8% more children were receiving free lunch; and 23.9% more were subject to intake by the Department of Juvenile Justice. Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Harford, and Howard Counties all experienced huge percentage increases in numbers of children receiving aid. (Examples: Howard County saw a 140.6% increase in number of Medicaid recipients; in Harford, that figure was 126.3%; both experienced increases of over 70% in recipients of AFDC.)
Overall ranks in the central Maryland region? Carroll Co. is 1st; Howard, 2nd; Frederick, 5th; Harford, 6th; Anne Arundel, 7th; Baltimore County 8th; and Baltimore City, 24th.

To request a copy of the KIDS COUNT Report, call Advocates for Children and Youth, 547-9200.

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This story was published on July 3, 1996.