Ky. Youth Advocate Terry Brooks says this year state gets A+ for kids health

08/02/2012 08:33 AM

The 2012 version of the national Kids Count report shows Kentucky moving in the right direction with improvements in childhood development, especially children’s health.

Terry Brooks, Director of the Kentucky Youth Advocates, said Kentucky leaders deserve credit for making policy changes over the last seven years, such as a mandatory seat belt rule and a graduated license process for teen drivers, as well as infant screening. They have contributed to a reversal of Kentucky’s lagging ranking in child health categories.

“When’s the last time that Kentucky got an A+ in any area related to kids?” Brooks asked rhetorically (:35).

The Annie E. Casey Foundation releases the Kids Count report annually ranking states on a host of areas of childhood development. Kentucky had ranked in the 40s for much of the last decade. This year, the commonwealth ranked 35th.

Brooks acknowledged Kentucky is behind in some areas when it comes to educating its youth and said family values play an important role in that.

One of the “no-brainers” Kentucky lawmakers still must address is the policy that allows some students to be put in jail for status offenses, such as skipping school. Brooks said that is costly for the taxpayers and often has a detrimental effect on teens.

“So we’re paying the most money and getting the least impact,” he said. (7:00)

Other factors are not so easy to change through legislation. For instance, the number of toddlers under 3 who aren’t read to by family members at least three days a week is on an increase.

“If we want to improve the lot of children in Kentucky, are there solutions that might come from Frankfort? Absolutely. Are there solutions that can come from local city hall? Absolutely. But let’s not downplay the role of mom and dad, and grandma and grandpa, that faith communities, that local non-profits can play” Brooks said (10:04).

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