Kids Count report studies child well-being in Routt County, statewide | SteamboatToday.com

Kids Count report studies child well-being in Routt County, statewide

Teresa Ristow

Hayden Valley Elementary School students Silas Morrison and Madelyn Debeak listen during an assembly on the first day of school last fall. The annual Kids Count in Colorado report was released this week and shows that Routt County continues to rank high in child well-being compared to other counties in the state.

— The annual Kids Count in Colorado report, released Monday, uses snapshots of data to help determine child well-being in a given county but doesn't always paint a full picture, according to local education and social services experts.

Routt County was again ranked seventh among 25 ranked counties in Colorado for overall child well-being, based on more than 40 statistics that cover rates of insured children, education data, family economics and population factors.

Among the notable changes from the 2015 report was a decrease in the percentage of uninsured children, from 18 percent in 2013 to 14 percent in 2014.

"It's probably much better now, because we've gone through another open enrollment period," said Vickie Clark, director of Routt County Department of Human Services.

What the report doesn't show, Clark said, are the challenges some families — even those that are insured — may face in obtaining healthcare.

Within the past year, provider reimbursements for giving care to those on Medicaid took a cut, leading some doctors, particularly specialists, to opt against accepting Medicaid patients.

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Many of the numbers that increased from the previous year's report — including an increase in the percentage of births to single women and an increase in births to women without a high school diploma or GED — should be critically examined, because they may represent a small number of people skewing the numbers, according to Clark and Stephanie Martin, director of First Impressions of Routt County.

"It really impacts the statistics when you have a very small number," Clark said, in reference to an increase in child abuse and neglect cases, which rose from 6.9 per 1,000 children to 8.5 per 1,000.

Martin said another topic not explored in-depth in the report is childcare availability and affordability.

"We're at capacity for new babies," Martin said.

An increase in the number of fourth-grade students not testing as proficient in reading is also more complicated than the report shows, according to Marty Lamansky, Steamboat Springs School District director of teaching and learning.

Lamansky said that, although the data appears to indicate an increase of nearly 20 percentage points countywide for students not proficient in reading, the determining test changed from one year to the next, along with the various levels of proficiency, and students are now expected to adhere to more rigorous standards.

"Being able to compare the two tests is just not possible at this time," Lamansky said.

Routt County's average median income increased to $66,846 in the 2016 report, along with increases in the number of full-day kindergartners and a decrease in women who smoke during pregnancy.

"You are seeing some positive improvements to income and things like that," Clark said.

Clark said she didn't notice anything especially significant in the report, and while Routt County is highly ranked in child well-being, it should be noted that many families are still struggling.

"We still have a lot of working families that are struggling to make ends meet," Clark said.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow

Learn more:

See the full 2016 Kids Count in Colorado report and reports from previous years at coloradokids.org.