Chilton County ranks 23rd in child well-being

Published 4:52 pm Wednesday, September 28, 2011

VOICES For Alabama’s Children released the 2011 Alabama Kids Count Data Book on Tuesday, Sept. 27 containing factors in child well-being in each of Alabama’s 67 counties.

Alabama ranked 48th in the national data book by the Annie E. Casey Foundation released in August, which compared child well-being in all 50 states.

Chilton County was No. 23 out of 67 counties, placing it in the top tier of the state ranking.

“Overall, it’s a good ranking,” said VOICES Executive Director Linda Tilly, noting that Chilton County ranked 20th in 2010. “When I think of a description of Chilton County, I think of traditional values that don’t get changed as much. Y’all are obviously doing some things right.”

One area where the entire state has shown a long-term trend of improvement is first grade retention rate, or measure of school readiness, perhaps as a result of new reading initiatives, Tilly said.

Chilton County’s 2011 rate is 4.1 percent, down from a base year rate of 8.1 percent.

“In 10 years, (Chilton County) almost cut it in half,” Tilly said. “I think that’s terrific. There are strong indications, early on, of which children are going to be successful in school. Parents need to be aware of the importance of those early years.”

Alabama has also improved in the child death rate, preventable death rate and vulnerable families.

Tilly said the county is in a fairly good position for births to unmarried teens and children in single-parent families.

“We always have to remember that the rankings are relative,” Tilly said. “We need to remember that while we’re getting better, other states are getting better, too.”

On the other hand, Chilton County’s graduation rate fell to 57.8 percent from a base year rate of 62.3 percent, which Tilly described as “a little bit alarming.”

“The county’s graduation rate is below the state average,” Tilly said. “It’s not as good as it was 10 years ago.”

An area of long-term worsening for Alabama is low birth weights. Chilton County ranked 23rd in this category.

Research has shown that smoking during pregnancy and exposure to second-hand smoke can result in low birth weight and developmental problems.

Another area of concern for Chilton County is poverty. The median household income was $40,292 in 2010, and it dropped to $38,916 for 2011.

“The effects of poverty, especially on young children, are very long lasting,” Tilly said. “As we endure this time of recession, we (need to) try to protect our children as much as possible from these things.

This is a time that we need to affirm children (and) not let stress negatively affect them,” Tilly said. “We need to look at these numbers and realize that we all have a stake in it.”