Analisa Romano
aromano@greeleytribune.com

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March 25, 2014
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More Weld County children living in poverty

The number of children living in poverty in Weld County inched a little higher this year, but the county’s median income is also on the rise, according to the annual “Kids Count in Colorado!” report released Monday.

Sponsored by the Colorado Children’s Campaign, the report surveys child health and well-being across the state by tracking everything from the number of kids enrolled in free and reduced lunch programs to teen births and graduation rates.

The report shows the number of children in Weld County who live in poverty rose 0.5 percent over last year, to 18.7 percent.

At the same time, the county’s median household income rose by about $3,500.

County human services officials said that provides some hope that higher wages will eventually drive down the poverty rate, which has hovered around 18 percent since 2011.

Weld County was among the middle of the pack of Colorado counties in nearly every parameter tracked by Kids Count, landing an overall health and wellbeing ranking of 15 out of the 25 most populous Colorado counties tracked in the report.

Weld’s averages were on par with Colorado in nearly every category, including kids receiving cash assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program — 6.2 percent compared to 6.1 percent statewide — the number of low weight births — 8.5 percent compared to 8.8 percent statewide — and the child abuse and neglect rate — 7.9 per 1,000 compared to 8.4 per 1,000 statewide.

Judy Griego, director of Weld County Human Services, said this year’s report didn’t reveal any numbers that surprised her.

But she said she will be interested next year to see how the Affordable Care Act impacts statistics related to the number of children receiving health insurance.

The Kids Count report shows in the 2012-13 fiscal year, 33 percent of Weld County kids were enrolled in Medicaid and 11.8 percent were enrolled in Child Health Plan Plus, a program for pregnant women and kids who don’t qualify for Medicaid but can’t afford private insurance.

Both of those numbers are comparable to Colorado as a whole.

But the report found that 23.5 percent of Weld kids qualified for Child Health Plan Plus but were not enrolled, compared to 15.9 percent statewide, and 13.8 percent of Weld County children are uninsured, compared to 9.1 percent statewide.

Under the new health care law, Medicaid will expand in Colorado but more kids may also get insured through the new exchange.

“That is something that I am kind of interested to see, is how is that going to impact our uninsured children,” Griego said.

One noticeable change in the report since last year has been teen and child death rates and injury deaths, which rose after a year of decline in the 2013 report.

Teen deaths in last year’s report were at 24.7 per 100,000 in Weld, nearly doubling this year to 46.7 per 100,000. Teen injury death rates similarly rose from 19.8 per 100,000 last year to 42 per 100,000 this year, according to the report.

Mark Wallace, executive director of the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment, said those numbers vary so greatly because the actual number of deaths is so small.

Weld County’s teen injury death rate, for example, rose from four deaths to nine from 2011 to 2012 — a difference of five actual deaths, which nearly doubles the rate.

In most instances, Weld County’s child death rates are comparable to national health standards, Wallace said.

For example, Weld has a rate of 13 motor vehicle deaths per 100,000 teens ages 15-19, compared to a national target of 12.4 per 100,000, he said.

While the rate may have increased in the last year, Wallace said it has been declining for the past decade.

Due to recently passed state legislation, Wallace said the county has a team of people from a variety of backgrounds, including law enforcement, the District Attorney’s Office, teachers, parents, human services officials and others who review child deaths and their circumstances to see if there is something the community can do to prevent them.

He said the team, which last year put together a campaign for safe crib sleeping to reduce the infant mortality rate, will likely be reviewing the Kids Count report.

In the report’s education standards, Weld County showed a number of incremental improvements, including TCAP scores and the graduation rate.

In fact, Weld’s graduation rate, at 82.5 percent, is higher than the state average, at 76.9 percent, and higher than Larimer County’s rate, at 81.6 percent.

But small increases in science, reading and math scores did not close the gap between Weld County and average TCAP scores.

Weld County students last year lagged a full 10 percent behind the state average in science, which had 50.4 percent scoring proficient or above, and 6.6 percent behind the state’s average of 55 percent proficient or above in writing.


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My Windsor Now Updated Mar 25, 2014 05:19PM Published Mar 27, 2014 10:21AM Copyright 2014 My Windsor Now. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.