County needs help for our youngest

Published 1:12 pm Wednesday, October 22, 2008

By Staff
We are not the worst. But we can certainly do better than we are doing to serve our youngest citizens.
The child advocacy group VOICES for Alabama's Children released its annual Kids Count data last week, and Escambia County has much room to improve in several areas, including the teen birth rate and low-weight births.
But Escambia County also has reason to be proud of its graduation rate and other improvements this year.
VOICES, which publishes its Kids Count data every year, is committed to improving the well-being of every child in Alabama.
The Kids Count data tracks statistics such as child poverty, graduation rates, juvenile crime and infant mortality.
Alabama itself ranks 47th in the nation for child welfare - not the worst, but obviously not where we want to be on the list. Many of the state's most vulnerable counties for child health and well-being are in the black belt, that swath of counties that stretches across the middle of the state and contains some of Alabama's worst poverty.
Escambia County is ranked somewhere in the middle, but the county's worst rankings come in low weight births, births to unmarried teens and vulnerable families - a statistic that tracks first births to unmarried teens who did not finish high school.
Those statistics get at the heart of the need for better care for children before they are even born. Unmarried teens - children themselves - are often less likely to get better prenatal care. A lack of such care can cause low birth weight, which in turn can lead to a host of health and developmental problems.
We need to support programs in our area that try to reach these vulnerable families and children. We have programs - including Hope Place - that provide parenting advice and other tools to help parents and children succeed despite obstacles.
We need to work together to help improve the well-being of all of our children in Escambia County and Alabama. Our entire state will be better for it.