Kentucky's ranking for child well-being is down a notch from last year, placing it in the bottom 10 states again, according to the annual Kids Count report.
Kentucky ranks 41st in the nation in the 2011 Kids Count Data Book, which is being released Wednesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Kentucky ranked 40th in the 2010 report, up from 41st the previous two years.
The latest report includes data mostly gathered in 2008 and 2009.
With 26 percent of children living in poverty in 2009 compared to 23 percent the year before, Kentucky's ranking on that indicator dropped from 43rd to 48th. Those children are living beneath the federal poverty line, which is an annual income of $21,756 for a family of two adults and two children.
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"Sadly, that same economic landscape is a reliable predictor of tomorrow's problems in a variety of arenas, ranging from health and wellness to education and child protection," said Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates.
"We hope this a wake-up call for urgency for folks in Frankfort," said Brooks.
Despite tight budgets, there are several things lawmakers could do to improve the well-being of Kentucky children, he said.
"A commitment toward a state earned-income tax credit and an aggressive campaign against predatory lending practices are common-sense solutions to begin to combat poverty in Kentucky," he said.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said Tuesday he was a "strong proponent" of tax reform that includes a state earned-income tax credit, which would allow low-income working people to keep more of their money.
He also co-sponsored failed legislation earlier this year that would cap interest rates charged by payday lenders.
"I think both of these actions, taken together, could go a long way in helping families get back on their feet and stay there," Stumbo said.
Overall, the Kids Count report looks at 10 measures to gauge the educational, social, economic and physical well-being of children in each state.
In addition to child poverty, conditions for Kentucky's children worsened since 2000 on three other indicators: babies with a low birth weights; children in single-parent families; and children younger than 18 whose parents don't have full-time, year-round work.
In just one year, from 2008 to 2009, the percent of children younger than 18 where no parent has full-time, year-round employment increased from 33 percent to 38 percent, the report said.
Kentucky has one of the highest rates in the nation of children with at least one unemployed parent — only four states and the District of Columbia have rates higher. In 2010, an estimated 122,000 Kentucky children, or 12.9 percent, lived in households where at least one parent was unemployed when the data were collected.
The report showed improvement on the percentage of teens ages 16 to 19 who are not in school and not high school graduates. That number dropped by 30 percent from 2000 to 2009.