McCreary County ranks near the bottom when it comes to key indicators of child well-being according to the Kentucky Kids Count annual report released earlier this month.
The report, released by Kentucky Youth Advocates, is part of the 25th annual release of the County Data Book, which ranks all Kentucky counties on overall child well-being based on 16 indicators, or points of measurement, in four domains: economic security, education, health, and family and community strength.
With an overall ranking of 107 out of all 120 Kentucky counties, McCreary County ranks worse than the state average in nearly every category.
According to the report 35 percent of McCreary County children live in poverty, compared to only 26 percent state wide, while 62 percent live with high rental cost burdens on their families – compared to only 49 percent in Kentucky.
McCreary’s median family income in households ($45,400) with children falls more than $7,000 less than the average ($52,700).
Education-wise, the report states 60 percent of kindergartners enter school not ready to learn, 51 percent of fourth graders are not proficient in reading, and 67 percent of eighth grade students are not proficient in math – all at least 10 percentage points above the state average.
One of the only categories where McCreary County bests state numbers is in the percentage of high school students graduating on time, where McCreary has 11 percent, while Kentucky as a whole ranks at 12 percent.
Of the four health indicators the study found 34.4 percent of expectant mothers smoked during their pregnancy compared to 22 percent state average, and 10.4 percent of all births were considered low-birthweight, whereas the state average is only 8.7 percent. Teen birth rates are among the highest in the state with 84.4 mothers between the ages of 15 to 19 per 1,000, compared to only 40.6 on average,
The study also found 13 percent of McCreary children and young adults living without health insurance, on par with state averages.
The final area in the report centers on family and community.
It found 21.6 percent of children born in the county were to mothers without a high school diploma, where Kentucky averaged only 16.8 percent.
More promising were two indicators in the category that showed lower percentages than the state average: only 22 percent of children were being raised in single parent families, compared to 32 percent in Kentucky, and McCreary only had 27.9 per 1,000 youth incarcerated in the juvenile justice system to Kentucky’s 37.5 per 1,000.
The report notes that some of the indicators included in the 2015 rankings are different than those included in previous Data Books, so current rankings should not be compared to previous rankings.
The Kentucky counties with the highest overall child well-being rankings are Oldham, Boone, Spencer, Edmonson, and Calloway counties. Owsley, Wolfe, Martin, Breathitt, and Clay counties scored at the bottom of the list.
The full Kentucky Kids Count Report can be viewed at www.kyyouth.org/kentucky-kids-count/.