Kansas is a good place for children, with the state ranking 16th overall on 16 indicators of child well-being, according to the 2012 Kids Count Data Book, released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Even so, the economic condition of children in Kansas has worsened over the last few years, and the state ranks in the bottom half of states for the number of children without health insurance.
The Data Book shows that 60,000 Kansas children do not have health insurance, putting the state 30th in the nation on this indicator. The percentage of children without coverage did not change between 2005 and 2010, but other states have made more significant progress in reaching uninsured kids, Data Book authors explain.
Nearly a third of Kansas children depend on HealthWave, the state's Medicaid program for children, for access to affordable health care. Between 35 and 39.9 percent of Pratt County children were enrolled in HealthWave in 2010, slightly higher than the state average. About 70 percent of the state's uninsured children qualify for HealthWave, according to Shannon Cotsoradis, president and CEO of Kansas Action of Children.
Without health insurance, families are less likely to take their children to the doctor and for dental care, Debra McGraw, director of the Pratt County Health Department, said.
Families sometimes become discouraged by a time-consuming application process, and if an application is rejected because of an error, it goes to the "bottom of the pile" when it is resubmitted.
"If people tell us that's happening, we can refer them to someone to expedite the process," McGraw said.
Staff members at the Health Department can help parents fill out the forms, and Spanish forms are available.
Lacking health coverage shouldn't keep families from getting their children vaccinated on time, McGraw said. Anyone who qualifies for free or reduced lunches at school or does not have health insurance will qualify for Vaccines for Children, a program that makes immunizations available at a reduced price.
In education indicators, Kansas ranks 22nd for percentage of children age 3 and 4 not enrolled in preschool, and 10th for percentage of fourth graders reading below proficiency. Eighty percent of teens graduated from high school on time, according to 2008-09 data. Kansas ranks 15th in the nation on this indicator.
Kansas children saw improvement on all four education indicators.
Compared to the previous rating period, more Kansas children live in poverty, in families whose heads of household do not have secure employment, in households with a high housing cost burden and in single-parent families.
For most indicators, county-level data is not yet available.
Indicators for well-being
Declining Indicators Current Prior Change
Page 2 of 2 - Children in poverty 18% 15% ↑20%
Parents lack secure
employment 27% 22% ↑23%
Households with high
housing cost burden 30% 26% ↑15%
Teens not in school
and not working 6% 5% ↑20%
Single parent families 31% 27% ↑15%
Head of household
lacks h.s. diploma 12% 12%
Children living in high
poverty areas 6% 2% ↑300%
Low birth wt. babies 7% 7%
health insurance 8% 8%
Improving indicators Current Prior Change
Teens who abuse
alcohol & drugs 8% 9% ↓11%
Children not in
preschool 53% 57% ↓7%
4th graders not
proficient in reading 64% 68% ↓6%
8th graders not
proficient in math 59% 66% ↓6%
H.S. students not
graduating on time 20% 22% ↓9%
— 2012 Kids Count Data Book, Annie M. Casey Foundation