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January 13, 2011 8:30 am

Children in Park County faring better than in state

Written by Ilene Olson

Juli Preston (front), 6, eagerly gets her afternoon snack at the Boys and Girls Club in Powell on Friday while Kylie Yates (left), 7, Jasmine James, 8, and Addison Braten (right), 6, wait for their turns. The Boys and Girls Club provides a healthy environment and structured activities for children from all walks of life. Juli Preston (front), 6, eagerly gets her afternoon snack at the Boys and Girls Club in Powell on Friday while Kylie Yates (left), 7, Jasmine James, 8, and Addison Braten (right), 6, wait for their turns. The Boys and Girls Club provides a healthy environment and structured activities for children from all walks of life. Tribune photo by Ilene Olson

But they’re not immune to problems seen elsewhere in Wyoming

While the state of Wyoming was experiencing a windfall in mineral revenue from 2000 to 2008, the percentage of children living in poverty in the state also declined, according to a report released last month.

However, the 2010 WY Kids Count report illustrates that the welfare of Wyoming’s children in the state worsened in several other areas, such as an increase in the teen birth rate, births to unmarried mothers, low birthweight babies, infant mortality and the teen death rate.

WY Kids Count, compiled by the Wyoming Children’s Action Alliance, based in Cheyenne, compares key indicators annually to track children’s welfare in the state. The report for 2010 compiled statistics through 2008, the most recent year for which data was available in all categories listed.

The report also tracks child welfare trends at the county level. The 2010 report shows the welfare trends of children in Park County often were reverse of those elsewhere in the state.

“I actually see a lot of positive things for Park County,” said Marc Homer of Laramie, WY Kids Count coordinator. “A lot of things went unchanged in Park County.”

The percentage of children living in poverty in Wyoming in 2000 stood at 14 percent, declining to 12 percent by 2008.

The poverty rate for children remained the same in Park County, at 15 percent in both 2000 and 2008.

Poverty was measured in the report by the federal poverty guideline, which stood at $21,200 for a family of two adults and two children in 2008.

The percentage of children receiving free or reduced-price lunch at school in Wyoming was 28 percent in 2000; by 2008, it had increased to 31 percent.

In Park County, 24 percent of children received free or reduced-priced lunch at school in 2000. By 2008, it was 30 percent, an increase of 6 percentage points.

The federal income limit for receiving free or reduced-price lunch stood at $39,220 for a family of four in 2008.

In other welfare indicators, the teen birth rate rose at both the county and the state level during the eight-year period; however, Homer noted the state rate remains nearly twice as high as the teen birth rate in Park County. 

The teen birth rate increased from 40 to 46 percent in Wyoming, and from 22 percent to 26 percent in Park County.

The percentage of births to unmarried mothers stood at 22 percent in Park County in both 2000 and 2008. It increased in Wyoming from 29 percent to 35 percent.

The 2010 report listed the percent of mothers receiving less than adequate prenatal care in Park County at 21 percent in 2008; in Wyoming, it stood at 30 percent.

There was no comparative data from 2000 for that category.

The percentage of low-birthweight babies rose slightly in Wyoming, increasing from 8.5 percent to 8.7 percent. However, it declined in Park County from 8.3 percent to 7.2 percent.

Homer said the percentage of babies with low birthweight is lower in Park County than in the state and in the nation.

Homer said the WY Kids Count report shows that Park County is fortunate to have hospitals that provide obstetrical services, while some counties do not. That is measured in the report by tracking out-of-county births.

Statewide, out-of-county births increased slightly, from 8.5 percent of all births to 8.7 percent.

In Park County, out-of-county births increased from 5 percent in 2000 to 7 percent in 2008.

Meanwhile, 100 percent of Big Horn County births took place out of county over the entire eight years. In Washakie County, out-of-county births increased from 22 percent in 2000 to 35 percent in 2008.

Infant mortality and the child death and teen death rates rose at the state and county levels, but all three remained lower in Park County.

Infant mortality increased in Wyoming, rising from 6.8 deaths per 100,000 infants in 2000 to 7.5 deaths; in Park County, it rose from 4.6 deaths per 100,000 infants to 6.3 deaths.

The child death rate in Wyoming increased from 6.8 deaths per 100,000 children ages 1-14 in 2000 to 7.5 deaths in 2008. Child deaths were lower in Park County, rising from 4.6 deaths per 100,000 children to 6.3 percent.

“Public safety and awareness is always important to address that indicator,” Homer said, “and we always want to reduce the amount of child abuse that occurs.”

The teen death rate in Wyoming stood at 77 deaths per 100,000 teens ages 15-19 in 2000, rising to 80 deaths per 100,000 in 2008.

The Park County teen death rate rose dramatically, from 37 deaths per 100,000 teens in 2000 to 79 deaths per 100,000 in 2008.

Home said Park County’s 2008 teen death rate of 79 is more in line with the state teen death rate. However, he noted that, because of the county’s small population, the changes in infant mortality, child and teen death rates, all based on the number of deaths per 100,000 people, are due to a small numerical increase and therefore are statistically skewed.

Homer said risk-taking behavior generally is a big factor in teen deaths.

That can be countered by providing more positive activities for teens to help them avoid getting involved in risk-taking behaviors, he said.

Homer said some of the worsening child welfare indicators statewide reflect social problems experienced in areas most impacted by energy development.

Homer said the WY Kids Count report spotlights concerns about child welfare in the state, with the aim of spurring community and state leaders to help relieve them. That can be done in part by stimulating the economy and by providing healthy environments and activities for children and teenagers, he said.

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