Poor marks for county in data on well-being of kids

Feb 20, 2012 By Emily Etheredge Staff Writer

Fremont County ranked last among 15 Wyoming counties categorized for child well-being, making it the community most obviously in need of further sustained investments in kids. Albany County ranked first in Wyoming for child well-being in the annual survey by the analysts of Kids Count.

The categories used to determine the statistics in the state calculates a cumulative rolling average of five-year periods for several indicators including infant mortality rate, child death rate, teen birth rate, low birth weight babies, and teen death rate. The calculations were an average of the years 2005-2009 and labeled 2007.

Kids Count Director Marc Homer suggests that Fremont County is the home of many people who enjoy living where they do but doesn't want to minimize the fact that there are a lot of social and health problems.

"There is a shortage of child care, quality early childhood education, and a high teen birth rate, which suggests there is a gap in the system. When families are working or a single-parent family, sometimes they rely on grandparents and friends. I'm sure it is a challenge to find quality child care but the reality is, Fremont County is struggling with it," Homer said.

The report suggested that many Wyoming mothers often do not receive adequate pre-natal care, have difficulty finding a local hospital to give birth, often are lacking in education about the risk factors that can negatively impact childbirth and child development.

In 2000, 18 percent of births occurred outside of mother's county of residence, increasing to 21 percent in 2009.

"Many young people are growing up in an environment without adequate knowledge of birth control or family planning," Homer said.

Homer plans to look at zip codes in the near future to be able to identify where people are more impoverished in the state and hopes this will give a more accurate depiction of what problems are than what the overall data show.

"One way to look at differences is the eight school districts and look at the different test results. I should be able to look at the different dropout rates and the earned income tax data that will show more accurately between the sub communities," Homer said.

Positive news detailed in the report focuses on the fact that the child death rate has decreased in Wyoming, yet the teen death rate continues to increase and remains alarmingly high in Wyoming despite a decline in the percentage of teens using alcohol.

Teen alcohol use decreased from 41 percent in 2002 to 36 percent in 2007.

Homer suggests improvement in Fremont County could come from more attention to particular issues.

"We can get kids starting out healthy, the entire family should be able to sort out issues that some of the parents may have in parenting and we can help each other in the community by helping to improve the quality of life for other kids who will in turn help out the general well being of everyone," Homer said.

Homer also said mentors play a large role in a child's development, so attention should be on the adults in a child's life as well.

"We must look at a dual generation approach. You can't just focus on the kids because the kids are a part of a family and what happens in that family is very important," Homer said.

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