• 48°

Study: 4 percent of Jessamine students were homeless in 2019-20

There were fewer Jessamine County children in poverty in 2014-18 than in the previous five years, but more in deep poverty, and the number of students who were homeless doubled during the same period.

Those were some of the findings in this year’s report card by Kentucky Youth Advocates, a nonprofit that advocates for policies to improve conditions of the state’s children and youth.

The 2020 Kentucky KIDS COUNT County Data Book features the latest data on 17 measures of child well-being, showing whether outcomes have improved, worsened or stayed the same during a five-year period.

The county-by-county data does not reflect current conditions for families amidst the COVID-19 crisis because most of it was gathered before 2020; however, it does indicate pre-existing barriers and areas of needed improvement.

The 30th edition of the report, however, examines the effects of the coronavirus disease and systemic racism on families and children with data disaggregated by race and ethnicity.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our daily routines, hurt families’ ability to meet basic needs, and presented serious threats to the health and safety of all of us. It has also made us painfully aware of the deep disparities among us … and these disparities have only been exacerbated by the global pandemic,” Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, said in a news release that accompanied the publication of the book last month.

An opening essay in the book includes data collected during this year’s pandemic to show how people of color are more likely to work in vulnerable jobs and to be unemployed. For example, fewer than half of black households with children reported being employed in the past week.

The study looks at four areas of child wellbeing: economic security, education, health and family and community.

Among the highlights for Kentucky as a whole, the study shows fewer children were in poverty in 2018, 22.3 percent, than in 2013, 25.5 percent, and the numbers improved in 107 of 120 counties.

Another positive measure is that in all 120 counties, the number of children with health insurance improved between 2013 and 2018, with Kentucky having a relatively high percentage of children insured, 96.3 percent.

Here are some of the findings for Jessamine County:

• The county saw almost a 5 percent decrease in the percentage of children in poverty, from 21.8 percent in 2013 to 17 percent in 2018, ranking it 14th out of 120 counties and well below the state average of 22.3 percent. The poverty rate is defined as having a household income of $21,720 annually for a family of three in August 2020.

• Jessamine County, however, worsened in the percentage of children in “deep poverty,” defined as households at half of the poverty level, or $10,860 a year for a family of three. Fourteen percent of children were in that category, compared to 11 percent for the state as a whole, ranking the county 59 out of 106 counties so measured. That number had worsened in the county from 12 percent in 2009-2013.

• Forty-four percent of Jessamine children were in low-income families, defined as 200 percent of the poverty level, a 4 percent improvement from 2013 to 2018.

• The number living in food-insecure households was 17.3 percent, slightly below the state level for 2018.

• Less than half of Jessamine kindergartners, 47.8 percent, were considered ready to learn in 2019-20, lower than the state average of 51 percent but slightly higher than in 2014-15.

• Jessamine did better than the state in the number of high school students graduating on time, 93.7 percent this past school year and better than the 2014-15 figure for the county of 87.8 percent.

• 16 percent of students had an individualized education plan, because of disability, in Jessamine in 2019-20, 1 percent more than for the state.

• Four percent of Jessamine County students were homeless in 2019-20, a 100 percent increase over 2015-16 and a percent higher than the state average.

• Health insurance coverage improved in 2018 to 98.5 percent for children under 19.

• The percentage of girls smoking during pregnancy declined from 21.6 percent to 18.4 percent between 2011-13 and 2016-18.

• Jessamine saw a big increase in low-birthweight babies, 9.4 percent for 2016-18 over 6.5 percent for 2011-13.

• The number of girls ages 15-19 giving birth dropped significantly, from 31.2 per 1,000 in 2011-13 to 20.7 in 2016-18.

• Births to mothers without a high school degree fell from 13.7 to 9.9 percent from 2011-13 to 2016-18

• The number of Jessamine children in foster care more than doubled from 21.3 in 2012-14 per 1,000 17 years old and younger to 45.7 in 2017-19, and the number exiting foster care to reunification also worsened during the same period, from 43 to 32 percent.

• The number of youth incarcerated in the juvenile justice system improved sharply, falling from 72.3 to 37.1 per 1,000 for children ages 10-17.

About Randy Patrick

Randy Patrick is a reporter for Bluegrass Newsmedia, which includes The Jessamine Journal. He may be reached at 859-759-0015 or by email at randy.patrick@bluegrassnewsmedia.com.

email author More by Randy