Tennessee county profiles provide benchmark for child well-being in pandemic recovery

Jan 12, 2021 at 02:00 pm by WGNS

Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth has released its County Profiles of Child Well-Being in Tennessee. 

At 8th, Rutherford County ranks among the top Tennessee counties in child well-being. The county’s best rankings include a high median household income and a relatively low rate of child poverty (at 11.8 percent, Rutherford County’s child poverty rate is still too high, but it is one of the lowest in the state). The county’s biggest opportunities for improvement include high housing costs and a high percentage of babies born at a low birth weight.

Additional strengths high percentages of 3rd to 8th grade students demonstrating proficiency on TNReady reading and math tests and a low rate of substantiated cases of abuse or neglect.

An additional challenge is a relatively high rate of students suspended from school.

Policy/Practice/Program Options to Improve Outcomes. Many of these policies have multiple models for delivery, including public-private partnership and non-profit leadership.

• Pro-active housing policy that helps ensure affordable housing is available for people to live where they work can improve negative outcomes related to high housing costs.

• Low birth weight is a persistent and difficult problem, but improvements can occur when care is made available for chronic physical and mental health and substance abuse conditions for women of childbearing age, as well as improving outreach to those who may qualify to receive SNAP, WIC and/or TennCare benefits to be sure they are aware of these services. Additionally, nutrition programs that provide food for school-age children to take home can contribute to nutritionally sound diets for women in their childbearing years. Expanding services through Family Resource Centers can help reach these vulnerable populations.

• Suspension rates can be reduced through clear definitions of what constitutes suspendable behavior and a focus on restorative discipline practices that aim to improve behavior while keeping children in school.

Key indicators statewide include:

• Tennessee has an average of one in five children living in poverty. The lowest percentage is in Williamson County (3.6 percent) and the highest percentage is in Lake County (41.2 percent).

• One in three 3rd-8th grade students in Tennessee rated proficient on TNReady Reading tests. In Haywood County, fewer than one out of every five students rated proficient compared to Williamson County, where more than three out of every five students rated proficient.

• Across Tennessee, 5.1 percent of children were uninsured. The lowest percentage of children lacking health insurance was 3.7 percent in Williamson county. The highest percentage was in Warren County at 7.9 percent. This is the second statewide increase in the percentage of children who lack health insurance after this rate reached an historic low of 3.7 percent in 2016.

• Tennessee had 4.7 substantiated cases of abuse or neglect per 1,000 children. Cocke county had the highest rate at 12.1 and Williamson county had the lowest at 0.9.

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