Kalamazoo, Ottawa counties stand out in Kids Count report

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek
2017 Kids Count report: How Michigan ranks for child well-being

LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — The economic crisis sparked by coronavirus is forcing governments to answer a tough question: where should they cut their budgets?

The Michigan League of Public Policy is hoping its 2020 Kids Count report will help answer that question.

The group said while the report released Wednesday does not reflect the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children, it highlights areas state and local governments should avoid cutting.

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“Too many families struggled to make ends meet before the public health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19,” the report concludes, adding that support programs will inevitably be strained as more parents lose their jobs in cuts prompted by the pandemic response.

“We must support children, families and workers’ recovery from this crisis at every opportunity and ensure residents’ basic needs are met,” the report adds.

POVERTY RATES IMPROVE, CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT WORSENS

While West Michigan poverty rates among children, youth and households improved in the most recent yearly data, more West Michigan children were confirmed victims of child abuse and neglect than in 2010, the report concluded.

The poverty rate among West Michigan children dropped roughly 45% since 2010 to a rate of 13.4% — nearly 6% better than the state average. Among West Michigan residents between 18 and 24 years old, the poverty rate declined about 9% to 23%. The rate of households that were in poverty or could not cover a bare bones budget also dipped about 6% to 36.8% in the region.

West Michigan’s preschool attendance rate worsened slightly and was 3% below the state average. While graduation rates and 8th grade math proficiency levels rose, the region’s third-grade reading proficiency dropped 1% since 2010.

Rates of child abuse and neglect also worsened in West Michigan, with the rate of confirmed victims about 1% higher than the state average.

STANDOUT COUNTIES

Among a dozen West Michigan counties, Kalamazoo County was the only one to improve in all poverty categories and post a drop in the number of confirmed victims of child abuse and neglect. The remaining 11 counties saw confirmed cases of abuse and neglect rise over 2010.

Allegan and Kent were the only other counties to post across-the-board improvements in their poverty rates.

Ottawa County was home to the lowest regional rate in child poverty at 5.7% — more than four times lower than Calhoun County’s rate of 27.6%. Ottawa County also had the lowest rate of households that couldn’t meet their budget in the region, at 30.6%.

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