Summit County has seen improvements in child well-being measures, from infant mortality to child abuse and neglect cases, according to a report released Thursday by Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio.
The 2020 KIDS COUNT County Profiles, a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, include health, education and economic benchmarks of child well-being across all 88 Ohio counties and statewide. Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio is the state’s KIDS COUNT grantee organization for the foundation.
In Summit County, infant mortality declined from 7.4 deaths per 1,000 births in 2017 to 7.1 in 2018. Child abuse and neglect cases declined from 4.9 per 1,000 in 2018 to 4.5 in 2019. The felony adjudication of minors dropped from 2.6 per 1,000 in 2018 to 1.8 in 2019.
“It really felt like they had embraced this message that every child in every county counts,” Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio KIDS COUNT Project Manager Kim Eckhart said.
Measures of child well-being are indicators of economic recovery, Eckhart said.
Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio attributes Summit County’s success to collaborative community initiatives like Better Birth Outcomes, First Things First and Full Term First Birthday.
The group also highlighted the county using some of its settlement money from drug companies over the opioid epidemic to fund CenteringPregnancy at Summa Health — including offering the program at the Summit County Jail — and Cleveland Clinic Akron General. The national program helps pregnant women affected by substance use disorders.
“Our children are the future of Summit County, and safeguarding their health and well-being through community collaboration is a responsibility I take very seriously,” Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro said. “My role as a convener allows me to keep the needs [of] children at the forefront of important conversations.”
Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio also highlighted the county allocating federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding for rent, mortgage and utility assistance; to the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank; and to small businesses.
“We are proud of our response to the pandemic, but we know it is not over and the economic effects are likely to linger for some time,” said County Council District 8 Representative Paula Prentice. “We will continue to strategically allocate CARES Act dollars and other sources of funding in the best interest of our residents and with a special focus on the needs of children.”
The report also includes data on K-12 education in Summit County’s 17 public school districts.
Students proficient or higher in third-grade reading ranged from a low of 49.5% at Akron to a high of greater than 95% at Manchester. Students proficient or higher in eighth-grade math ranged from a low of 27% at Akron to a high of 91.9% at Woodridge.
High school graduation rates ranged from a low of 79% at Barberton to a high of 98.5% at Mogadore and Twinsburg. Chronic absenteeism ranged from a low of 4.7% at Revere to a high of 24% at Barberton. Suspensions or expulsions per 100 students ranged from a low of 0.9 at Hudson to a high of 45.8 at Akron.
More work needs to be done at the state level, according to the group, with instances of babies born with low birthweight, cases of child abuse and neglect and children in foster care all slightly increasing from 2018 to 2019.
The group proposed continuing pregnancy-related Medicaid coverage for 12 months after delivery instead of 60 days.
“A mother’s health is so intimately related to a baby’s health,” Eckhart said.
Eckhart said although the data on child well-being is from before the COVID-19 pandemic, she hopes local legislators and officials use the information to guide their response to the pandemic, especially when it comes to supporting children and families facing challenges ranging from food security and educational access, including stable housing and access to high-speed internet, to health and well-being, including access to affordable health care.
Every county commissioner and legislator in the state will be sent a copy of the report.
“We’re hoping that providing this clear and accurate data for how children are faring before the pandemic can really help guide our way forward,” Eckhart said. “If we use this data and this measure of child well-being to guide us, I think we will definitely be moving in the right direction.”
Contact Beacon Journal reporter Emily Mills at email@example.com.