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July 10, 2017
CONTACT: Lana Lee, (973) 643-3876 (office) |(609) 651-5855 (cell) | firstname.lastname@example.org
2017 Kids Count Rankings: How NJ Counties Stack Up for Kids
Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) released its annual Kids Count county profiles and pocket guide today, comparing the state’s 21 counties across 12 measures of child well-being and providing 5-year child trend data at the state and county level. This year, instead of giving an overall rank for each county, ACNJ took a different approach, comparing counties across four domains: child and family economics, child health, safety and well-being, and education.
(county-by-county trend data on 40 indicators of child health and well-being)
“By using key indicators to rank the four categories, this year’s county rankings provide a richer, more dynamic snapshot of how well children are faring in each county,” said Cecilia Zalkind, ACNJ president and CEO. “In every part of the state, there are areas of progress and areas of opportunity where community members and advocates can make a positive impact.”
Somerset, for example, claimed the top spot for education and ranked second in child and family economics as well as safety and well-being, but placed 14th in child health, with its comparatively low rate of lead testing for kids under six-years-old as a contributing factor.
Cape May placed last in safety and well-being, with the highest juvenile arrest rate, percentage of idle teens and percentage of substantiated or established child abuse or neglect across the state. However, on the education front, Cape May ranked 12th among the counties, due to more than half of low-income students participating in the federal school breakfast program.
“From curbing chronic absenteeism to increasing lead testing for young children to addressing child hunger with school breakfast, community leaders can use the data to recognize areas of concern and target resources to improve the lives of children in their county,” Zalkind said.
Zalkind encourages Garden State residents to use the county-level data proactively to inform and drive positive outcomes for children, especially in light of the upcoming election this fall when New Jersey elects a new governor and legislator.
“Use the data to engage with candidates. It’s no longer enough to accept the status quo; our children deserve meaningful opportunities to reach educational milestones and have a better chance to succeed,” she said.
Child and Family Economics. Morris, Somerset, and Bergen ranked highest in economic well-being with a child poverty rate of 9 percent or less and an unemployment rate lower than the state’s 5 percent average. Cumberland and Passaic, with at least a quarter of children living in poverty, tied for last place in this domain followed by Atlantic and Essex, respectively. New Jersey families continue to grapple with high rent burdens, ranging from 42 percent in Morris County to 62 percent in Atlantic County of households spending more than 30 percent of their income on rent.
Child Health. Hunterdon, Sussex, and Ocean receive the highest rankings for child health, while Gloucester ranked last in this domain followed by Essex. Although the majority of counties reflect New Jersey’s overall success in drastically reducing the number of uninsured kids, a handful of counties saw child uninsured rates higher than the state’s 3.7 percent average – Cape May, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Middlesex and Union Counties. Between 2012 and 2015, every county experienced a decrease in the percentage of children tested for lead before the age of 6 with the exception of Burlington, which saw a 3 percent increase and Hunterdon, with a 7 percent increase. Monmouth County saw no change.
Education. With only 5 percent of their student population chronically absent and a high school graduation rate at or above 94 percent, Somerset, Morris and Hunterdon ranked in the top three for education, with Cumberland, Essex and Mercer landing at the bottom. In both Cumberland and Essex, 15 percent of students were chronically absent, missing at least 10 percent of enrolled school days or just two days a month.
Safety and Well-being. Ocean and Somerset took the top spots in this domain. In these counties, less than 7 percent of reported children had substantiated or established cases of child abuse or neglect. Ocean and Somerset also had lower rates of juvenile arrests and youth not working and not in school. From 2011 to 2015, New Jersey saw dramatic declines in all 21 counties for the number of juveniles arrested. Gloucester County experienced the most significant reduction – by approximately 60 percent.
In an effort to draw attention to the needs of children, ACNJ is hosting a Children’s Summit on September 12th, bringing together community leaders, child advocates and candidates for the upcoming state election to focus on making children a priority.
In addition to releasing the county rankings and pocket guide, ACNJ released the state data book, New Jersey Kids Count 2017: The State of Our Children, in May, which provides state-level data in all areas of child well-being.
To read the reports, visit www.acnj.org.
Kids Count is a national and state‐by‐state statistical effort to track the state of children in the United States, sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Advocates for Children of New Jersey is a statewide child research and action organization and the New Jersey Kids Count grantee.