High school dropout rates and teen pregnancies are on the rise in the state … two major areas of concern for Citizens for Missouri’s Children. Osage County might be the best place to raise a child in the state. St. Louis City might be the worst.
Citizens for Missouri’s Children tallies data from all counties and the City of St. Louis for its annual Kids Count, which is used by communities and legislators to identify need and apply for grants to boost service programs in certain areas.
“This would have been the first time that there would have been a full year of recession impact, I don’t think the changes were as drastic as they might be,” he says. “That’s not to say that it’s not still to come because the data began in December 2008, when unemployment was around 6 or 7 percent, it’s gone up. On the good side, it’s not as bad as we thought, on the bad side, it’s going to likely get worse.”
Gee says as unemployment climbs, a delayed impact might be seen on next year’s report.
He says dropout rates stand out as a problem.
There are “30 counties, and that’s a large amount, we had a higher high school dropout rate than the state rate [average] in 2008.”
The report ranks various other factors, such as birth weight, infant mortality, and more. Ripley, Dunklin and Pemiscot counties — in the bootheel — ranked last.
Julie Leicht, Policy Director, says the City of St. Louis typically ranks last. Beyond that, last on the list are: Sullivan, Ripley, Pemiscot, Dunklin … and then St. Louis, in that order.
Best in the state ranked are (in order) Osage, St. Charles, Platte, Andrew and Worth, “so that’s kind ofscattered all over the state,” Leicht says.
However, Gee says the list / report is not formulated for competition, but rather “it’s a barometer of how our kids are faring in the state, and how Missouri ranks among other states in the nation. A lot of other not-for-profit organizations use this data when they apply for grants.”
“We know that our data has been used to obtain over a million dollars in grants for other charitable organizations in the community,” he says. “We want it to be used as a tool by the communities to apply for grants where there is a need.”
Leicht says “We also provide the book to legislators and they’re quite interested because they use it quite often in their work,” adding that the Legislature likes to see if their areas need assistance in certain areas.”