Mesa County’s child-welfare standing improves
A state measure of childhood well-being known as KIDS COUNT ranked Mesa County 12th out of 25 Colorado counties that were analyzed in 2014. The county moved up two spots on the list compared to 2013 thanks to health insurance statistics, state officials said.
The annual KIDS COUNT report tries to make reliable, up-to-date information about Colorado’s child population available to state and local decision makers. The data is for use in their deliberations, the report said.
“A child’s health status, educational opportunities and early childhood experiences work together to either build a strong foundation for future growth or put him or her at a disadvantage from the beginning,” said Sarah Hughes, research director for Colorado Children’s Campaign.
A big expansion in health insurance coverage for Mesa County children was the chief cause of the county’s improved ranking, Hughes said.
She spoke to about 50 local educators, social workers and other policy makers about the report at Mesa County Central Library on Wednesday.
More than 95 percent of Mesa County’s children enjoyed health insurance coverage in 2014, second-best in the state behind Douglas County, where 96 percent of the children were insured for health, Hughes said.
Meanwhile, Mesa County’s neighbor to the north, Garfield County, recorded the lowest number of children with health insurance. Nearly 20 percent went without.
The percent of Delta and Montrose counties’ child population that went without health insurance hovered between 13 percent and 14 percent during the same period, she said.
Mesa County also performed better than its neighbors in a number of other categories, including infant mortality and the number of babies born to mothers with less than 12 years of education, according to the report.
On the other hand, Mesa County did not see across-the-board improvement in the KIDS COUNT metrics, Hughes said.
High school dropout rates, for example, and a pernicious disconnect between high school students and local business, is dragging the county’s child well-being ranking down, she said.
Mesa County had the fourth-worst dropout rate of any county in the state — 3.2 percent — only slightly better than Adams County, which reported 3.8 percent, and Denver, which reported a 5 percent dropout rate, according to the report.
Not surprisingly, the county also had the fourth-worst rate of teens not attending school and not working, the report said.
Mesa County also had more single-parent families than its neighbors, excluding Delta County. About one in three children in both Mesa and Delta counties lives in a single-parent home, according to the report.
In all, 20 percent of the county’s children live in poverty, better than Montrose and Delta Counties, but not as good as Garfield County, where 16 percent live below the poverty line, Hughes said.