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Young, at-risk families face daunting odds, survey says.

The fourth annual KIDS COUNT Data Book: State Profiles of Child Well-Being, a state-by-state report card on the condition of America's children, found that a staggering number of new families are at risk right from the start--a consequence of the deteriorating status of the nation's teenagers.

The KIDS COUNT New Family Risk Index measures the proportion of families who begin with the odds stacked against them because they face one or more of the following risks:

* the mother is under age 20 when she Ires her first baby;

* the mother has not completed high school when her first child is born;

* the parents of this first baby are not married.

"Each of these risks increases the chances that families will break up, be poor, or be dependent on public assistance and that their children will be neglected and fall behind in school," said Judith Weitz, KIDS COUNT Coordinator at the Center for the Study of Social Policy. Of the almost 1.7 million new families started with the birth of a first baby in 1990, "Forty-five percent began with one or more strikes against them; almost one-fourth, with two or more strikes; and more than one in ten began with all three strikes," Weitz continued.

More than haft of all new families were found vulnerable for one or more reasons in seven states: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, and South Carolina.


Only 69 percent of all teenagers and 42 percent of Hispanic teens complete high school in four years.

Five percent of American teens have no productive role in society--they aren't in school and don't have jobs, either in or outside of the home.

Almost 9 percent of all babies born in 1990--360,645 babies-were born to single teenagers, representing a 16 percent increase nationwide.

Between 1986 and 1991, the juvenile violent crime arrest rate increased nationwide by 48 percent. The arrest rate for male juveniles increased by 46 percent; for females, it increased by 57 percent.

More than 12,000 teenagers ages 15 to 19 died as a result of accident, suicide, or homicide in 1990. The teen violent death rate increased by 13 percent nationally between 1985 and 1990. The African-American teen violent death rate increased by 78 percent. Overall, most teeus die in accidents. However, in 1990, twice as many African-American teeus were murdered as were killed in an accident.

"Turning these numbers around will require a national commitment to provide more innovative, cost-effective responses to the needs of vulnerable children and youth. We need to reward and expand services that are effective and redeploy resources away from those that are not--we need to spend smarter," said Nelson.

"Until policy makers and citizens take the steps and risks necessary to change the ways children and family services are oriented, delivered, evaluated, and financed, the number of new American families destined to fail will continue to increase," he said.

The 1993 KIDS COUNT Data Book was prepared by the Center for the Study of Social Policy and funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. KIDS COUNT projects in 37 states also produce annual state and local profiles of the status of children and families.

Copies are available for $12.50 each (postage included) from KIDS COUNT, Center for the Study of Social Policy, Suite 503, 1250 Eye Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005; telephone: (202) 371-1565.

Test Your Awareness

The KIDS COUNT Data Book has the answers.

1. What percent of American kids live in a "traditional" family with one parent as the breadwinner and one parent the homemaker?

a) 12 percent

b) 26 percent

c) 38 percent

2. Each year in the United States, almost 518,000 babies are born to teenagers. These teenage mothers are most likely to be:

a) White

b) Black

c) Hispanic

3. At what age do children run the greatest risk of dying?.

a) The first year of life

b) Ages 1-4

c) Ages 15-19


Question 1: B. A little more than one in four (26 percent) American children lives in the "traditional" two-parent family with one parent in the work force and one not. Nearly two-thirds of children living with one or both parents do not have a parent at home full-time.

Question 2: A. Most teenage mothers are white.

Question 3: A. The first year of life is the most vulnerable for America's children. In 1989, almost 40,000 babies died before their first birthday.

The KIDS COUNT Data Book discusses these questions and answers and includes state-by-state rankings on 10 key indicators of child well-being in the United States.

NLC has a limited supply of copies for free; to receive one, contact Tonya Gary, Children and Families in Cities Project, National League of Cities, 1301 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20004; telephone: 202/626-3030.

For general distribution, at $12.50 each postage included, or for multiple copies, contact the Center for the Study of Social Policy, Suite 503, 1250 Eye Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20005; telephone: 202/371-1565.
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Title Annotation:includes related quiz
Author:Kyle, John
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Apr 26, 1993
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