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Study: Tennessee ranks 42nd in child well-being indicators

Friday, June 13, 2008

NASHVILLE -- Tennessee ranks 42nd in the nation in a new state-by-state study on the well-being of America's children. The 2008 KIDS COUNT Data Book compares states on 10 core indicators of child well-being and shows Tennessee improved on six of the 10 measures.

The 2008 essay discusses youth who are involved in state juvenile justice systems and highlights effective strategies for improving outcomes for these youth, including detention reform, like the Casey Foundation's Juvenile De-tention Alternative Initia-tive, an effective continuum of community-based services and Performance-based Standards in juvenile facilities.

The essay also challenges local and state agencies to increase opportunities for positive youth development and reduce unnecessary and inappropriate detention and incarceration.

Among the study's findings, Tennessee's youth custody rate was lower than the national rate.

In 2006, Tennessee's rate of youth in secure custody was 91 per 100,000 youth ages 10-15, significantly lower than 125 for the nation.

The estimated daily count of youth in secure placements was 1,419, with 64 percent of these youth in custody for non-violent offenses.

High school dropout rate decreased by 45 percent.

The percentage of Tennessee teens (ages 16-19) who are high school dropouts decreased by 45 percent, from 11 percent in 2000 to 6 percent in 2006. Nationally, the teen dropout rate improved by 36 percent, from 11 percent to 7 percent during the same period.

The death rate of Tennessee children decreased by 14 percent, dropping from 28 deaths per 100,000 children ages 1-14 in 2000 to 24 deaths per 100,000 children in 2005.

The Tennessee teen death rate decreased by 12 percent, dropping from 90 deaths per 100,000 teens ages 15-19 in 2000 to 79 deaths per 100,000 teens in 2005.

Tennessee ranks in the bottom 10 in four of the 10 indicators.

Nationally, Tennessee ranked 41st for the percentage of children living in poverty, 43rd for the percentage of low-birthweight babies, and 45th for both the infant mortality and teen birth rates.

"Tennessee has implemented good public policies and strategies to improve outcomes for older children," said Linda O'Neal, executive director of the Commission on Children and Youth, the Tennessee KIDS COUNT grantee, "resulting in more children graduating from high school and fewer adolescents dying.

"Tennessee must continue and strengthen significant emphasis on improving preconception maternal health to reduce the number of low birthweight babies and infant deaths, efforts that take several years before the outcomes are reflected in data reported in the book."

The book emphasizes what researchers and science know about brain development and maturity and identifies effective strategies to provide children opportunities are on track for success.

Most young people who become involved with the justice system eventually become law-abiding, contributing citizens.

Developing programs that respond effectively and provide youth with the skills and education required for a good job are factors most associated with successful outcomes.

The Tennessee Commis-sion on Children and Youth is an independent agency created by the Tennessee General Assembly. Its primary mission is to advocate for improvements in the quality of life for Tennessee children and families.

The KIDS COUNT National Data Book is available on the Internet at www.kidscount.org and through TCCY's website at www.tennessee.gov/tccy.

The KIDS COUNT program is funded by the Annie E. Casey Founda-tion, the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to disadvantaged children.

For more information, contact (615) 741-2633 or a TCCY regional coordinator.