In the 2017 Kentucky KIDS COUNT County Data Book, we are introducing a more holistic approach to measuring how children are faring in each Kentucky county. The County Data Book offers the latest data on 17 measures of child well-being, showing whether outcomes for children have improved, worsened, or stayed the same over a five-year period. It also calculates how many children would be impacted if Kentucky was able to make just a 10 percent improvement for each measure.

The message behind the KIDS COUNT data is clear: giving children opportunities to succeed is essential if our state is to reach its potential. Looking at data change over time illuminates areas of progress and areas of needed policy change and investment. If all of our kids—no matter their families’ income, skin color, or zip code—are to grow up to be healthy and productive citizens, their needs must be prioritized.

Data highlights in economic security, education, health, and family and community are listed below with the help of partner voices.

Economic Security

Financial stability of families remains an area of highest need for Kentucky communities. Between 2010 and 2015, Kentucky saw a small reduction in childhood poverty. However, one in four children still live in poverty and 48 percent live in low-income families. A 10 percent improvement in the economic security of Kentucky families would mean nearly 25,000 fewer children in poverty and nearly 52,000 fewer children in low-income families.

“Growing up in a financially stable home affects almost every other aspect of a young child’s life. The addiction crisis has touched every community and has worsened many families’ financial instability.  We understand the challenges of parents struggling to make ends meet as they work to end their addiction and grandparents draining their savings to provide basic needs for a child they are caring for due to parental addiction or incarceration. At Volunteers of America, we’re committed to helping parents get the care they need to stay healthy and sober and provide for their families.” – Jennifer Hancock, president and CEO of Volunteers of America Mid-States


The quality of the Commonwealth’s future workforce depends on the educational achievement of our children. The data show that less than half of Kentucky 8th graders are proficient in math, which is a concern because success in math sets students up to excel beyond high school. The good news is nearly 9 out of 10 high school students are graduating on time.

“On paper, Kentucky kids are improving in educational outcomes, but when you look closely, you see we still have a long way to go. Only half of Kindergartners enter school ready to learn. We must team with all stakeholders to ensure that every child has the tools they need to graduate on time and ready for their next adventure—technical training or a 4-year degree.” – Dale Brown, Director of College and School Relations at Western Kentucky University and a former superintendent


Health data continues to show progress for Kentucky kids. Nearly 96 percent of children under age 19 and 77 percent of young adults age 19 – 25 have health insurance, which they depend on to stay healthy. In addition, rates of smoking during pregnancy, babies born at low birthweight, and teen births all improved over the past 5 years. For instance, Kentucky has seen a 13 percent decrease in the rate of births to mothers who smoked during pregnancy.

“The good news is that there are fewer mothers smoking while pregnant and, in turn, fewer low-birthweight babies. The Foundation is committed to working with advocates and local communities to promote smoke-free ordinances, ensure that expectant mothers have easy access to effective tobacco treatment, and raise the state tax on cigarettes to reduce youth smoking. We must get serious about protecting our children from the harmful effects of tobacco in the Commonwealth.” – Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky

Family and Community

Stable families and supportive communities help children develop and make healthy transitions into adulthood. Over the past five years, Kentucky has incarcerated fewer children by putting greater emphasis on a youth justice system that responds effectively and helps kids stay on track to succeed. At the same time, more kids are living in out-of-home care, including in residential facilities, foster care, and in relative placements, with rate increases in 88 of Kentucky’s 120 counties.

“All children deserve to be safe and in a family. Kids in out-of-home care, often due to abuse and neglect, are among our most vulnerable. The Kosair Charities’ Face It® Movement is committed to the promotion of best practices in child abuse prevention and intervention, engaging the community, and advocating for effective policies to improve the child welfare system.” – Keith Inman, president of Kosair Charities®.

Local communities can act upon this data to advance child well-being for the kids in their cities and neighborhoods. Policymakers can utilize this data and potential to create pathways to success for all families and children, especially those who have historically been blocked from reaching their full potential.

Kentucky kids rely on their state leaders to make decisions and investments that prioritize them. As state agencies, the legislature, and Governor craft the next biennial budget and prepare for the 2018 session, we are calling on leaders to build a budget that invests in kids’ education, health, economic security, and safety. Our communities and economy can only win when Kentucky kids and their families succeed.

The 2017 County Data Book was made possible with support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the 2017 KIDS COUNT sponsors: Passport Health Plan, Delta Dental of Kentucky, and Kosair Charities®.