2018-02-07 / Opinions & Letters

Data-informed change can lead to better outcomes for Indiana’s children

Commentary

In a state that ranks 28th overall nationally for child wellbeing, ensuring all of Indiana’s children are healthy, safe, welleducated and economically secure will require collaborative efforts to help many children overcome barriers to success.

For some children, especially those of color and those who grow up in poverty or communities lacking in resources, the challenges are disproportionately greater, according to The Indiana Youth Institute’s (IYI) 2018 Indiana KIDS COUNT Data Book. The book presents data on child well-being in the areas of health, safety, economics, education, and families and communities. A spotlight begins each section to raise awareness of and outline solutions for important issues affecting children. This year’s Data Book includes more data comparisons between Indiana and the U.S. and presents greater levels of data disaggregated by race and ethnicity, providing richer detail into how various groups of Hoosier children fare compared to their peers.

“When we look into the data, we learn that some of our children face bigger and greater challenges and barriers to success,” said Tami Silverman, president and CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute. “We all benefit when Indiana’s children are healthy, safe, well-educated and economically secure. We want the information in this book to spark conversations and inform solutions throughout the state so that all of those in Indiana’s next generation can reach their full potential and grow into tomorrow’s leaders.”

Among the findings in the book are:

Child Abuse and Neglect

Drug abuse, particularly opioid use, continues to drive up child abuse and neglect rates in Indiana. There were 18.6 substantiated cases of child abuse or neglect per every 1,000 children in 2016, up from 17.1 per 1,000 in 2015. The rate in Carroll County is 27.69 substantiated cases per 1,000 children. After cresting 50 percent for the first time in 2016 (52.2 percent), the percentage of children removed from their home by the Indiana Department of Child Services due to parental drug and/or alcohol abuse rose another 11 percent in 2017 to 58.2 percent. Reports to the Indiana Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline jumped 11 percent in 2016 and 9 percent in 2017, averaging nearly one call every two minutes. The state also has experienced a 58 percent increase in the number of children in foster care over the past five years. In addition, 2.4 percent of children in Carroll County live with a foster parent.

Child Poverty

For the first time since 2009, the child poverty rate fell to less than 20 percent (19.5 percent), but Indiana still ranks 31st for the percentage of children living in poverty. The child poverty rate in Carroll County is 14.2 percent. The news is even more stark for children of color. Black children are three times more likely and Hispanic children more than twice as likely to live in poverty than their white peers (42.2 percent for black children, 30.9 percent for Hispanic children and 13.9 percent for white children). Nearly a quarter (23.6 percent) of Indiana parents say that it is somewhat often or very often hard to pay for the basics such as food or housing on their income, compared to 35.4 percent nationally.

Education

Some Hoosier students are faring better than their peers nationally in reading and math, but state and national data show room for improvement. On the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), in 2015, 40 percent of Indiana students in fourth grade scored at or above proficient in reading, up from 38 percent in 2013. Indiana fourth graders are more likely to be proficient in reading than their peers nationally (35 percent). Hoosier eighth graders also are more likely to score at or proficient in math than their peers nationally (39 percent to 32 percent). Results for third- to eighth-grade students passing both the math and English portion of Indiana’s ISTEP + show achievement gaps for students of color. The percentage of Asian students passing both English and math is 69.9 percent, compared to 58.1 percent for white students, 37.9 percent for Hispanic students and 25.1 percent of black students.

Infant Mortality

Indiana infants are 24 percent more likely to die before their first birthday than infants nationally, ranking Indiana 41st nationally on infant mortality. In 2016, 623 Hoosier infants died in their first year (7.5 deaths per 1,000 live births) an increase from 2015 (613 deaths, or 7.3 per 1,000 compared to 5.9 per 1,000 nationally). In Carroll County, 1 child died in their first year. This is another area where children of color are more atrisk than their white peers in Indiana. The black infant mortality rate is 14.4 per 1,000 live births, the rate for Hispanic children is 9 per 1,000 and the rate for white infants is 6.4 per 1,000. The disparity widened in 2016 compared to 2015, when the infant mortality rate was 13.2 per 1,000 for black infants, 8.5 per 1,000 for Hispanic infants and 6.3 per 1,000 for white infants.

The 2018 Indiana KIDS COUNT Data Book from the Indiana Youth Institute compiles data from national and statewide sources to paint a picture of what it’s like to be a child in the Hoosier state. IYI produces the Data Book as part of a national network of state-level projects coordinated and supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF). Some data from this book also will be included in AECF’s national KIDS COUNT Data Book, which provides state-by-state comparisons of child well-being and will be released later this year.

The Indiana Youth Institute promotes the healthy development of Indiana children and youth by serving the people, institutions and communities that impact their well-being.

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