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New report on Kids count

Montgomery– The 2004 Kids Count Data Book released today shows that Alabama has made slow but steady improvements in seven of ten indicators that measure child well-being including a continued and steady drop in the child death rate, child poverty rate and the number of teenaged girls having babies. Child advocates however are concerned that the state may lose hard won gains in many areas of children well-being due to cuts in vital children’s programs because of the lack of revenue in the state’s General Fund

In keeping with national trends, Alabama is reporting significantly fewer teens giving birth than in previous years. Since 1996, there has been a 26% decline in the teen birth rate. And yet, everyday, one out of every six children are born to teenaged girls. Teens from high poverty, low-income one-parent families are far more likely to become pregnant and give birth than teens from intact families living in more affluent communities.

“The most effective teen pregnancy prevention efforts — including those that promote abstinence — contain three essential components.

They stress a high degree of community involvement, promote and advance communication between youth and their parents and other adults, and provide adolescents with the information and high quality services they need to make smart decisions about sexual behavior and protect themselves from unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease,” said Hartsfield.

While teen pregnancy is on the decline, Alabama is witnessing a significant increase in its number of idle teens (teens not working and not attending school). Over the last five years Alabama experienced a 10% increase in idle teens while the nation continued to see a decrease in this area.

“This is an alarming trend since Alabama saw a decline in the number of idle teens in recent years,” said Hartsfield.

Without adequate support and mentoring, teens are likely to become disconnected from positive influences within society. Disconnected teens often drop out of school because they haven’t received the support they need to grow into productive citizens and employees and are least likely to find jobs with adequate wages.

Although nationally the number of idle teens decreased; the number of disconnected youth is on the rise. Alabama is no different. Mirroring the national pattern, 20% of Alabama’s 18-24 year olds are considered disconnected compared to15% nationally. Teens who have children of their own and teens who never completed high school are two of the categories that make up this vulnerable group.

“While we have made strides in most of the measured areas of child well-being, our communities cannot afford to dismiss the areas that still need improvement. Child well-being will not improve over night. It requires thoughtful policy decisions today backed up by adequate funding and community involvement. Some communities are already reaching out to these vulnerable teens as well as preventing others from becoming disconnected. These programs assist vulnerable and disconnected youth in making better transitions to adulthood and they need the support of their communities in order to continue their efforts,” said Hartsfield.

Among the other indicators measured: infant mortality rate decreased but still remains one of the highest in the nation; teen death rate, high school dropout rate and percent of children in underemployed families improved; the number of single parent families remained stable but high; and the percent of low-birthweight babies continued a steady climb.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation published the 2004 National Kids Count Data Book and disseminates it through a network of state affiliates including VOICES for Alabama’s Children.

The data book is a state-by-state study that reports on the well-being of America’s children. Alabama’s overall ranking is 47th. Since 1988, Alabama has never ranked better than 45th and has ranked as low as 48th. The national data book examines the conditions of children and families using 2001 figures. Trends are viewed over a five-year period to determine improvement or deterioration of conditions.

VOICES for Alabama’s Children will publish the Alabama companion to the national data book this fall.

The 2004 Alabama Kids Count Data book will profile child well-being in each of the state’s 67 counties using 18 indicators.

More updated data and information is available for the state publication than is available for the 2004 National Kids Count Data Book.

Below is the KIDSCOUNT data press release for your review of the Alabama numbers. Please note it is embargoed nationwide until Thursday. Thanks Lisa Parrish

Investing in Children Pays Big Dividends

Teens need supportive communities

EMBARGOED UNTIL June 3, 2004

Contact: Apreill Hartsfield/ VOICES for Alabama’s Children,

334-213-2410 or 334-750-0032//Lisa Parrish 334-313-2114

Montgomery– The 2004 Kids Count Data Book released today shows that Alabama has made slow but steady improvements in seven of ten indicators that measure child well-being including a continued and steady drop in the child death rate, child poverty rate and the number of teenaged girls having babies. Child advocates however are concerned that the state may lose hard won gains in many areas of children well-being due to cuts in vital children’s programs because of the lack of revenue in the state’s General Fund

In keeping with national trends, Alabama is reporting significantly fewer teens giving birth than in previous years. Since 1996, there has been a 26% decline in the teen birth rate. And yet, everyday, one out of every six children are born to teenaged girls. Teens from high poverty, low-income one-parent families are far more likely to become pregnant and give birth than teens from intact families living in more affluent communities.

“The most effective teen pregnancy prevention efforts — including those that promote abstinence — contain three essential components.

They stress a high degree of community involvement, promote and advance communication between youth and their parents and other adults, and provide adolescents with the information and high quality services they need to make smart decisions about sexual behavior and protect themselves from unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease,” said Hartsfield.

While teen pregnancy is on the decline, Alabama is witnessing a significant increase in its number of idle teens (teens not working and not attending school). Over the last five years Alabama experienced a 10% increase in idle teens while the nation continued to see a decrease in this area.

“This is an alarming trend since Alabama saw a decline in the number of idle teens in recent years,” said Hartsfield.

Without adequate support and mentoring, teens are likely to become disconnected from positive influences within society. Disconnected teens often drop out of school because they haven’t received the support they need to grow into productive citizens and employees and are least likely to find jobs with adequate wages.

Although nationally the number of idle teens decreased; the number of disconnected youth is on the rise. Alabama is no different. Mirroring the national pattern, 20% of Alabama’s 18-24 year olds are considered disconnected compared to15% nationally. Teens who have children of their own and teens who never completed high school are two of the categories that make up this vulnerable group.

“While we have made strides in most of the measured areas of child well-being, our communities cannot afford to dismiss the areas that still need improvement. Child well-being will not improve over night. It requires thoughtful policy decisions today backed up by adequate funding and community involvement. Some communities are already reaching out to these vulnerable teens as well as preventing others from becoming disconnected. These programs assist vulnerable and disconnected youth in making better transitions to adulthood and they need the support of their communities in order to continue their efforts,” said Hartsfield.

Among the other indicators measured: infant mortality rate decreased but still remains one of the highest in the nation; teen death rate, high school dropout rate and percent of children in underemployed families improved; the number of single parent families remained stable but high; and the percent of low-birthweight babies continued a steady climb.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation published the 2004 National Kids Count Data Book and disseminates it through a network of state affiliates including VOICES for Alabama’s Children.

The data book is a state-by-state study that reports on the well-being of America’s children. Alabama’s overall ranking is 47th. Since 1988, Alabama has never ranked better than 45th and has ranked as low as 48th. The national data book examines the conditions of children and families using 2001 figures. Trends are viewed over a five-year period to determine improvement or deterioration of conditions.

VOICES for Alabama’s Children will publish the Alabama companion to the national data book this fall.

The 2004 Alabama Kids Count Data book will profile child well-being in each of the state’s 67 counties using 18 indicators.

More updated data and information is available for the state publication than is available for the 2004 National Kids Count Data Book.