Dec. 3, 2018

2018 Kansas KIDS COUNT data lay cornerstone for opportunity

TOPEKA, Kansas – For the first time this year, data from the annual Kansas KIDS COUNT report highlights how Kansas children are doing disaggregated by race and ethnicity. The numbers show that children of color in our state face additional barriers to opportunity. 

But there’s good news. Kansas Action for Children has identified sensible policiesthat not only address these barriers but also help every child and family in Kansas. These include high-quality early childhood education, paid family leave, and programs that boost infant and maternal health.  

“The data point us in a clear direction,” said KAC President and CEO Annie McKay. “These policies will bring immediate benefits and set up our state for long-term success.” 

Early childhood education  

In the 2016-2017 school year, the overall four-year Kansas graduation rate was 86.6 percent. While nine in 10 Asian and white students graduated on time, lower rates of Black, Native American, and Latinx students did so. Less than three in four Black youth in Kansas (73 percent) graduated on time. 

High-quality early education can improve high school and college graduation rates. Research has also shown it provides far-reaching economic benefits. Policymakers can help by increasing access to early childhood education and child-care subsidies, while improving reimbursements to child care providers who provide services during nontraditional work hours. 

Paid family leave  

In 2017, Kids Count data shows Black (32 percent) and Latinx children (30 percent) are almost three times as likely as white children in Kansas (11 percent) to live in poverty. As a result, families of color are also more likely to depend on programs such as TANF or SNAP. 

When these children fall ill and need a caregiver at home, or when their families grow, parents can face an impossible choice. They either don’t focus on work, juggling home care and employment, or they lose their jobs. This problem affects many Kansans: 85 percent of U.S. workers don’t have access to paid family leave. 

States that have implemented paid family leave have found positive results for individuals, employers, and the economy overall. The program would boost financial security and enhance families’ health. 

Infant and maternal health 

Black Kansas babies are more than 2.5 times more likely to die than white Kansas babies, due to a variety of systemic barriers. They are also twice as likely (13 percent) to be born with a low birth weight than white babies. Over the summer, KAC researchers issued a paper on this difficult and challenging issue. 

Targeted policy solutions that improve overall health – while addressing specific needs facing Kansans of color – include cultural competency for caregivers and service providers, evidence-based home-visiting programs with measurable outcomes, and expansion of KanCare. 

“We can’t make Kansas the best place to raise and be a child unless every single child has opportunity,” McKay said. “targeted solutions will remove obstacles, lift up children and families, and ensure that our state thrives.”

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