Making Sure KIDS COUNT

30 April 2013 Written by  

The Utah KIDS COUNT Project’s annual data release, Measures of Child Well-Being in Utah, provides timely, accurate, and accessible data on how kids are doing in Utah. KIDS COUNT, a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, is a national and state-by-state effort to track the well-being of children. For 19 years Voices for Utah Children has been the Utah KIDS COUNT grantee and has been providing high-quality data and trend analysis. KIDS COUNT enriches local, state, and national discussions concerning ways to secure better futures for all children and raises the visibility of children’s issues through a nonpartisan, evidence-based lens.

But how can collecting data help kids? Data can help policymakers and advocates identify problems that require action. Data can identify successful policies that should be continued or expanded. As resources become more limited, data can help policymakers track whether taxpayer dollars are being effectively invested to maximize limited resources. Data also helps service providers prove the need for programs as they write grants to support Utah’s children and their families. Data matters and helps us make KIDS COUNT!

Let’s look at just one example of where data can lead us. The percentage of children living in poverty in Utah has risen steadily since 2005, from 11% to 16% in 2011. Each year, Voices for Utah Children’s KIDS COUNT Project documents this rise and educates the public, policymakers, and the press on the negative outcomes for children living below the poverty level.

The rise in child poverty caught the attention of a Utah State Senator and legislation on Intergenerational Poverty was born. Specifically, a mandate to track individuals and their children who are living in intergenerational poverty is now in place. We now know that 35,778 adults are living in poverty today that also lived in poverty as children. And we know that those adults have over 51,000 children who are at risk of continuing the cycle. By collecting data on these adults – their educational level, their work history, marital status, whether they are homeless, what legal issues they have had, and their disability status – advocates and policymakers can begin to formulate policies that can break the cycle of intergenerational poverty and provide a different direction for those children.

Additional KIDS COUNT data indicates that:

  • Even though the number of children enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP has risen over the last 10 years, 11% of our children are uninsured.
  • The number of children living in single-parent families has risen over the last five years.
  • The teen birth rate is declining.
  • Dropout rates have declined.
  • The percentage of youth who are unemployed has risen.

This information and so much more is collected every year by the Utah KIDS COUNT Project in the hopes that it will be used to create positive change for the children in Utah. All children need quality health care, education and economic stability to thrive. There are many children doing well in Utah, but there are also many who are struggling. The KIDS COUNT data is an important tool to help local and state policymakers, as well as committed individuals in communities, focus on proven solutions in areas where kids need the most help. Children are 31% of our population in Utah and 100% of our future. Let’s make sure KIDS COUNT!

Terry Haven 300Terry Haven, Deputy Director, joined the organization in 1996. She researches and publishes the annual Utah KIDS COUNT data book that reports on the well-being of Utah's children by county. She analyzes U.S Census data and provides data support for all Voices issue areas. She also conducts trainings and provides technical assistance on data work for community groups. Terry is the point person at Voices for our work on Intergenerational Poverty and two-generation strategies for moving children and their families out of poverty. This includes working with the Intergenerational Poverty Commission Research Subcommittee and focusing on chronic absence.Terry works with a number of national partners including the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Ascend Fund at the Aspen Institute, and Attendance Works to help further the mission of Voices for Utah Children. Her academic background is in sociology, with a Bachelors degree and Masters degree from the University of Wyoming.