|Calhoun County continues to suffer the effects of poverty, alcohol, drug abuse and poor educational outcomes, according to the latest report from WV Kids Count|
Calhoun County ranked 40th of WV's 55 counties (one being best, 55 worst) in overall ratings using 12 core measures of the condition of children, according to the latest report from WV Kids Count.
There was marked improvement from last year, when the county was ranked at 47.
Perhaps the most troubling statistic is a continued increase in the number of births to teen girls.
West Virginia is leading the nation in teen births.
The teen birth rate increased 81% in the annual study, girls 15-19, with Calhoun ranked at 53 of 55 counties with the highest rate.
The teen birth rate to unmarried teens increased 37%, girls 10-19, making Calhoun have the highest rate of all 55 counties.
Researching the Kids Count statistics, particularly in comparing them to regional counties, there should be some caution with interpretation, the numbers could be skewed.
Also troubling was a 49% increased in low birth-weight of babies, meaning that pregnant girls are not following proper per-natal nutrition.
For decades, teen births had been declining in West Virginia and the nation.
But in 2006, West Virginia's rate began to worsen, now among the worst states in the nation for teen births.
"One in seven teen girls in West Virginia will now have a baby," said Margie Hale, Executive Director of Kids Count WV.
"This is alarming, because we know when teens get pregnant they are much more likely to drop out of school, live in poverty and have babies that are less healthy," Hale said.
West Virginia is a state that has not implemented a comprehensive sex education curriculum, which uses evidence-based methods for reducing teen pregnancy.
Sex education is a patchwork in West Virginia schools and varies widely from county-to-county, frequently challenged by evangelical Christians who support abstinence until marriage and contend that teaching sex in middle and high schools promotes sexual promiscuity.
Teen pregnancy is historically linked to poverty rates, alcohol and drug abuse with poor educational outcomes.
The number of child abuse and neglect cases increased 11%, with Calhoun ranked 50th in the 55 counties.
The percent of children living in poverty is at 33%, with the county ranked at 47 of the 55 counties.
The children eligible for free or reduced priced lunch in the public school system is 73%, with the county ranked 49th of the 55 counties.
There was some positive results in the latest Kids Count study, including a low number of high school drop outs, a high graduation rate, the county ranked 8th of the 55 counties.
Also ranked high was enrollment of four-year-olds enrolled in per-kindergarten, the county ranking best of all 55 counties.
Also the county had a low child death rate (ages 1-14), ranking the best in all 55 counties, but that number could be skewed because children are transferred to out-of-county medical facilities.
The county was ranked 27th of 55 counties with teen injury and death rates (ages 15-19), and was ranked 11th with infant mortality rate.
Kids Count says 47% of Calhoun fourth graders scored below proficiency in reading and language arts.
Only 35% of Medicaid eligible children under age five received dental care.
About 50% of Calhoun children (ages-3-4) were eligible for Head Start.
Kids Count continues to express grave concern over child care, particularly important because low-income working parents need the service.
Calhoun has only one licensed day care provider and two day care homes.
Kids Count's Margie Hale considers child care to be a pressing need in West Virginia.
"There are nearly 68,000 kids under six in West Virginia that need child care, but more than nine out of ten are in care that is of unknown quality," Hale said.
"Every child born in West Virginia deserves the best possible start in life," she said.
REGIONAL COUNTY OVER-ALL RANKINGS FOR CHILD WELL-BEING (1 best, 55 worst of WV counties):
With teen birth rate (15-19), Calhoun was at 53, Clay 47, Braxton 36, Roane 29, Ritchie 28, Wirt 23, Roane 2.
With births to unmarried mothers (10-19), Calhoun was rated worst in state at 55, Ritchie 35, Wirt 32, Braxton 23, Clay 21, Roane 14, Gilmer 2.
With child abuse and neglect, Clay County was rated worst in the state at 55, Braxton County 51, Calhoun 50, Ritchie 42, Gilmer 40, Wirt 37, Roane 8.
Percent of children living in poverty, Clay at 54, Calhoun 47, Roane 46, Wirt 43, Braxton 42, Ritchie 28, Gilmer 26.
Roane County ranked 45 with high school drop-outs (Calhoun 8).
The entire report will be available at www.wvkidscount.org
WV LEADING NATION IN TEEN CHILDBIRTHS - Calhoun-Clay Among Highest In State, Kids Count: 36% Calhoun Children In Poverty, High Rate Abuse/Neglect(02/09/2013)