Group reviews Kids Count report for SLV

ALAMOSA— The Early Childhood Learning Center of Alamosa hosted a presentation by the Colorado Children’s Campaign on September 11th. The topic centered on the Kids Count in Colorado 2018 data report. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the study.

Sarah Hughes, project director for the Colorado Children’s Campaign, shared some of the key data points and advocacy issues that the organization is currently working with. The presentation focused on how children in the San Luis Valley are doing as well as some possible steps for action.

Hughes noted that there have been consistent findings that economic security is a problem for children in Colorado. The county with the least amount of children in poverty has been Douglas County. Some the highest rates have been found in Costilla County with 40 percent of children in poverty situations in 2016. Poverty continues to be a challenge for many areas.

Another key point of the study has been a gap in the availability of childcare. The Colorado Children’s Campaign has determined that this is an area that is critical to the well-being of communities. There is currently not enough childcare available to meet the demand across the state. This is partly attributed to the fact that recruiting is hard and resources are limited in this sector. It is often not affordable for many families either. This is a challenge that is ongoing in the San Luis Valley as well.

Another aspect to the study is health, particularly mental health. The teen suicide rate for Colorado in 2015 was the highest ever recorded for the state. This is especially troubling since Colorado already has a higher than average teen suicide rate. The Colorado Children’s Campaign is working to find ways to address this very sensitive issue.

One area of the study that the San Luis Valley has performed very well in is kindergarten enrollment. There is currently a 100-percent enrollment rate for this grade across the entire Valley. This is another area that has been determined to be critical for the development of children. The state funds a half-day for all kindergarten students. Funding for a full day depends on either tuition or local sources of funding. This is another issue that the Campaign continues to work on.

There were two action items that were encouraged at the conclusion of the presentation. They included advocating for the support of Amendment 73, a 2018 ballot initiative that seeks to provide more funding for education initiatives. The second was encouraging participation in the upcoming 2020 Census.

The Colorado Children’s Campaign is part of Kids Count. This is a nationwide program that is in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. The organization is supported by the Annie C. Casey Foundation.