Children in Westerly, Charlestown, Hopkinton and Richmond are generally faring better than their peers statewide, according to the Rhode Island Kids Count 2014 Factbook. The Factbook, a look at the health, economic well being, safety, and education of Rhode Island’s 200,000-plus children, had mostly positive results for the state’s southwest corner, but there are still some challenges.
Kids Count is a policy and advocacy group. At a Monday meeting with Rhode Island policymakers, Elizabeth Burke Bryant, executive director, said that on the positive side, high school graduation rates are up, and juvenile crime is down. The child death rate is low, and a high percentage of Rhode Island’s children are covered by health insurance. Indicators that need improvement are the income disparity among racial and ethnic groups, an increase in children whose families need assistance buying food, an increase in attempted suicides by youths, and insufficient access to Head Start programs.
All four towns in the region have a declining youth population, Bryant noted, adding that Rhode Island has the nation’s fifth-lowest birth rate.
In Westerly, the 2010 Census reported 4,787 children, an 11 percent decrease from the 5,406 children in 2000. Compared to the state as a whole, average rents are slightly cheaper, and a smaller percentage of children live in families that receive cash assistance or food stamps,
Several health indicators were much better for Westerly’s children than they were statewide. On the negative side, 4 percent of Westerly’s infants were considered “at highest risk” in 2013, while the state average was 3 percent. However, births to mothers with less than a high school diploma was only 8 percent in Westerly, compared to 15 percent average in Rhode Island. Statewide, 14 percent of expectant mothers received delayed prenatal care, and Westerly had only 7 percent. There were 5 children per 1,000 with incarcerated parents in 2013, and 11 per 1,000 statewide.
In the schools, Westerly’s graduation rate is 88 percent, which is more than the state’s 80 percent.
The 11th grade math proficiency level is 54 percent in Westerly, but only 36 percent statewide. High school chronic absences were at 11 percent in Westerly, versus 24 percent average throughout the state.
In some areas, Westerly matched statewide indicators. The teen birth rate was 22 per 1,000 girls in Westerly in 2013, and 23 per 1,000 statewide. Both Westerly and Rhode Island as a whole have 17 percent special-education students.
In Hopkinton, 18 percent of the town’s 1,845 children were living in single-parent homes in 2010, compared to 31 percent statwide. Average rental costs are slightly higher in Hopkinton than in the rest of the state, but only 1 percent of children live in families that receive cash assistance, compared to 4 percent statewide. Between 2000 and 2010, the youth population declined 8 percent.
Like in Westerly, 8 percent of the births were to mothers with less than a high school diploma in Hopkinton, compared to 15 percent statewide. About 3 in 1,000 Hopkinton children have incarcerated parents, which is much less than the 11 in 1,000 statewide. There were 5 children per 1,000 in Hopkinton who were victims of child abuse or neglect, compared to 14 in 1,000 throughout Rhode Island.
Less than 1 percent of Richmond’s 1,849 children live in families that receive cash assistance, while 4 percent of children statewide do. Only 6 percent of children are born to mothers with less than a high school diploma in Richmond, compared to 15 percent statewide. There were no reports of children with incarcerated parents in Richmond.
The youth population declined 8 percent between 2000 and 2010.
Charlestown’s youth population declined 12 percent between 2000 and 2010, from 1,712 to 1,506. About 1 percent of those children live in families receiving cash assistance, compared to 4 percent statewide. Only 4 percent of children are born to mothers with less than a high school diploma, compared to 15 percent statewide. And Charlestown’s teen birthrate is about half that of the state’s, with 12 percent in Charlestown and 23 percent in Rhode Island. Only 2 children per 1,000 have incarcerated parents in Charlestown, compared to 11 in 1,000 statewide.
On the negative side, 8 percent of Charlestown’s infants are born “at highest risk,” compared to 3 percent statewide.
Chariho students beat their state peers in reading and math proficiencies in grades 4, 8 and 11. Chronic absence in kindergarten through grade 3 was only 3 percent, compared to 12 percent statwide. The high school chronic absence rate was 17 percent, compared to 24 percent statewide. Chariho’s graduation rate is 87 percent, which is higher than the state’s 80 percent.
The Kids County group says the purpose of its Factbook, now in its 20th year, is to show legislators what is working for Rhode Island’s children and what isn’t, so they can make “well-informed program and policy decisions that support the well being of all children in Rhode Island.”
Follow Leslie Rovetti on Twitter @STreporter
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