Colorado Children’s Campaign report sheds light on child well-being in Moffat County
September 23, 2014
Craig — Notable trends — including a high percentage of mothers who smoke while pregnant in Moffat County — were highlighted in a recent health and education report about children living Colorado.
Members of Moffat County youth- and education-related organizations gathered Tuesday morning to hear the latest data from the Colorado Children's Campaign's 2014 "Kids Count in Colorado!" report, which compiles data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to assess early childhood development, child health and education trends throughout the state.
Among the attendees was Katie Grobe, from the Yampa Valley Pregnancy Center, who was struck by both good and bad changes in maternal health statistics for the county, including a decrease in teen birth rates and an alarmingly high percentage of babies born to mothers in 2012 who reported smoking during pregnancy — 23 percent compared to 7 percent statewide.
"The smoking number was new and surprising," Grobe said, though anecdotally, she said she sometimes sees pregnant women at her center step out for a smoking break. "It's nice to know where things stand and what needs to be worked on."
Other statewide trends included an increase in diversity among child populations throughout Colorado from 2000 to 2012, persistent achievement gaps between children from low-income versus higher-income households and a dramatic increase in childhood poverty throughout the state.
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Across Colorado, the number of children living in poverty has more than doubled since 2000, increasing from 104,000 to 224,000 in 2012. Although Moffat County's 2012 child poverty rate is one point below the state average at 17 percent, it, too, has increased from 13 percent in 2007.
Colorado Children's Campaign Research Director Sarah Hughes explained Tuesday that although Colorado is said to be bouncing back more quickly than other states since the recession, "there are still hundreds of thousands of kids not feeling the effects of the recovery."
Hughes further explained that the method used by the federal government to define poverty levels has not been updated for more than 50 years, and many consider it flawed and inaccurate.
"The reality is that the number of kids living in families that are struggling is much, much higher," Hughes said.
Significant achievement gaps between kids at or near poverty levels and kids from upper- and middle-income families persist year after year, further compounding the issue. In Moffat County, students from higher-income families scored an average of 25 percentage points higher in reading and 21 points higher in math than students whose families qualified for the free or reduced price meal program, based on CSAP and TCAP scores.
And the number of students who qualify for the free or reduced meal program is only going up: Moffat County saw a 74 percent increase from 2000 to 2013.
On the positive side of things, Moffat County's high school graduation rate was higher than the state average at 87 percent in 2013, compared to 77 percent statewide. The county also boasts a 100 percent enrollment rate of kindergartners in a full-day program compared with 70 percent statewide, and a higher percentage of kids enrolled in preschool.
"We do this because we believe what gets measured gets changed," Hughes said.