Just as students receive report cards at the end of the year that measure their performance and progress in school, the Kern County Network for Children (KCNC) produces the annual Kern County Report Card to gauge how well we, as a county, are taking care of our children. The 17th annual edition includes the latest available data in categories like child demographics, family economics, education, child/adolescent health, child safety and at-risk youth behavior.
So, are we making the grade as a community?
The 2015 Kern County Report Card shows that Kern County has made significant progress in areas that shape a child from birth to adulthood such as births to teen mothers, infant health, child maltreatment, unintentional child injuries and college readiness.
Data from the Report Card show Kern County has made some improvements in reducing rates of unemployment and poverty in recent years. However, the negative impact of the Great Recession remains evident and too many Kern County families raising children struggle to earn the income needed to support basic family and personal needs.
More than 77,000 children in Kern County – 31% of all children – live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level – $23,550 a year for a family of four. Yet, while Kern County’s child poverty rate has declined steadily since 2012, it is still six points higher than it was at the beginning of the Great Recession in 2007.
Regardless of age, poverty threatens every aspect of a child’s well-being including his/her physical, social emotional health and ability to learn.
This is why publishing the Report Card on an annual basis is so important. With greater knowledge and understanding about the conditions of Kern County children, the Report Card offers an important tool for building public awareness and creating change. While we can be proud of the progress highlighted in the Report Card, we know that challenges remain. We must not let up on our prevention efforts and safety-net programs as a community to ensure that every child grow up healthy, safe and connected to resources that enable he or she to thrive.
In addition to raising awareness of these issues, the 2015 Kern County Report Card features suggestions for the reader to help meet the needs of children in their community so they may lead healthy, safe and productive lives.
As the designated Child Abuse Prevention Council for Kern County, KCNC formed Kern Cares in 2010 to coordinate efforts throughout Kern County to prevent and respond to child abuse and neglect. The KCNC Children’s Advocacy Committee guides Kern Cares’ outreach and education efforts with data from the Kern County Child Death Review Team and the Kern County Report Card.
On April 1, 2015, the Children’s Advocacy Committee released the 2015/16 Kern Cares Prevention Calendar which highlights a critical issue facing children and families in Kern County each month with community trainings, social media and other outreach efforts.
It is our hope that the facts and figures within the 2015 Kern County Report Card are not only informative, but also prompt more community action to improve the lives of children. We invite the community to join Kern Cares and discover positive, proactive ways that they can contribute to building a strong future for our children.
Listed below are some ideas on how to get involved in different awareness campaigns from Kern Cares even if you have a few minutes, a few hours or more time!