How Are Colorado’s Children Doing?

As I did last year in April I want to share with you a report on the status of Colorado’s children.  The 2015 KIDS COUNT in Colorado Report was published by the Colorado Children’s Campaign on March 23, 2015.  This report has been published annually for 22 years.  The report is part of the national KIDS COUNT project funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.  The report includes a Child Well- Being Index that compares how children are faring in Colorado’s largest 25 counties by using indicators to assess children’s health, education and family and community support.  According to the report child well –being varies widely from community to community.
 
The index shows that Douglas County topped the list of Colorado counties with the best child well-being outcomes, while Fremont County ranked at the bottom of the list with childhood poverty rates of 31 percent.  Historically, Colorado’s highest child poverty rates have been found in the San Luis Valley and the southeastern region of the state.  Three counties, Alamosa, Costilla and Saguache,  are considered “persistently poor”.
 
Some of the key findings in the KIDS COUNT report include:
 
The percentage of children living in poverty declined in Colorado in 2013 after several years of increases.  This is the first drop in the child poverty rate since 2008.  17 percent of Colorado children (approximately 207,000 children).  However, nearly twice as many Colorado children lived in poverty in 2013 as in 2000.
The number of children living in food-insecure households has started to decline as participation in SNAP (the food stamp program) has increased.  On average, 19 percent of Colorado children live in food-insecure households, down from 21 percent between 2007 and 2009.  However, this number is still higher than the 16 percent reported almost a decade ago.  Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of inadequate nutrition since their brains and bodies are developing rapidly.  Many families in this situation rely on low cost foods which tend to be highly processed and less nutritious than more expensive food.
Colorado continues to make progress at decreasing the number of uninsured children.  In 2013 about 9 percent of Colorado kids were uninsured, down from 14 percent between 2004 and 2006.  La Plata and Montezuma counties have the largest percentage of uninsured children at 19.9 percent.
Across Colorado, slightly fewer than half (49 percent) of all 3 and 4 year old children are enrolled in a preschool program of some type.  Preschool enrollment rates are lowest In Colorado among children of color and children in low income families, who are most at risk of starting school unprepared.  While preschool enrollment has increased slightly in recent years, it hasn’t been enough to keep up with the sharp rise in children eligible for, and parents interested in, services like the Colorado Preschool Program. 
Child care continues to be a large burden for many Colorado families, both in terms of affordability and availability.  Center based care for a 4 year old in Colorado was the sixth least affordable in the country at $9,781 per year.  Infant care is even more expensive at $13,143  and was more than the cost of tuition at a four year college or university.
Poverty rates decreased for children of all racial and ethnic backgrounds between 2012 and 2013, but the gaps between children of color and their non-Hispanic white peers remained very wide.  In 2013, Black/African-American and Hispanic/Latino children were more than three times as likely to live in poverty as non-Hispanic white children.
 
 You can read the entire 2015 KIDS COUNT in Colorado Report published by the Colorado Children’s Campaign on their website at  coloradokids.org.  The website also has additional information about child health, early childhood and K-12 education.
 
  
Holly Rutherford-Allen
Executive Director
720-325-7078