Children in poverty and lack of childcare highlight Kids Count presentation
Steamboat Springs — A presentation Thursday by Denver-based advocacy group Colorado Children’s Campaign highlighted two important issues impacting Routt County youth — poverty and lack of affordable childcare.
Research director Sarah Hughes and analyst Claire McKeever talked through striking data about the region during a presentation at the Bud Werner Memorial Library that focused on data from the group’s 2015 Kids Count in Colorado report released in the spring.
According to the report, 12 percent of Routt County youth are living in poverty, as defined by the federal poverty level — an income of about $23,500 for a family of four.
The factors that set the poverty level are outdated and do not take into account several factors, including the cost of living in a particular community, such as Steamboat, leading researchers to think the number of struggling families is significantly higher.
“Most people agree that [the federal poverty level] is much too low to be realistic for what it takes for a family to make ends meet, especially in a resort community like Steamboat,” Hughes said. “That’s definitely an underestimate of kids that are living in struggling families.”
About 24 percent of Routt County kids under 18 are living below 200 percent of the poverty level — about $47,000 for a family of four. Those numbers are skewed based on the child’s age, with 31 percent of children under 6 living below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
“All these numbers are troubling,” Hughes said. “If [children] aren’t able to get their needs met at that time, it can really have significant effects.”
The data in the 2015 report compares Routt County to each county across the state, and revealed that childcare costs in the county are among the worst in Colorado, another set of data the researchers found concerning.
Data showed that annual childcare costs for one infant total about $16,500, about 20 percent of the income of a married couple, half the income of a single mother or 84 percent of the income of a family of three living in poverty.
Researchers found that Routt County was the least affordable of all counties when it came to center-based care for preschoolers, and sixth least affordable for center-based care for infants.
“Licensed childcare without some sort of assistance is going to be out of reach for many families,” Hughes said.
In addition to high costs, Routt County has only enough licensed daycare and preschool slots to serve about 38 percent of kids under 6.
Hughes acknowledged not all families seek licensed care, and many are assisted financially or find other alternatives for childcare.
Other data presented included statistics on student education performance, maternal health and insurance rates.
While the data discussed Thursday gives a glimpse into the well-being of Routt County youth, officials with Yampa Valley Medical Center and the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association are working to paint a more detailed picture of the health and stability of families in specific communities in Routt and Moffat counties.
The two organizations plan to expand upon annual data collection to better understand the “why” behind the number and fill in gaps for small population statistics omitted from the Kids Count report, in part by holding a series of community forums in the near future.
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The city of Steamboat Springs is exploring a way to help it stay in compliance with state regulations and also cool down chronically high temperatures in an impaired stretch of the Yampa River.