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Early Efforts Pay Off for Tennessee Children

Embargoed until Contacts: Linda O'Neal
May 1, 2003 or Pam Brown
Attachments Phone (615) 741-2633

Quality early childhood education and child care increase the opportunity for children to succeed in school and in life. They have a positive impact on several indicators of child well-being included in a report released today. The report, KIDS COUNT: The State of the Child in Tennessee 2002, provides a detailed, county-by-county look at the well-being of Tennessee's children.

"We know at-risk children who experience quality early childhood education are more likely to have better long-term outcomes, including lower special education placements, school dropout, teen pregnancy and juvenile delinquency," said Linda O'Neal. O'Neal is executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, which produced the report.

The report identifies improvements in adolescent health indicators. The teen pregnancy rate in Tennessee declined from 1991 to a 10-year low in 2000. The teen birth rate and the rate of sexually transmitted diseases among teens also went down. However, the teen death rate was higher.

KIDS COUNT also reports other successes. In 2001, Tennessee reached its highest rate of immunization completion, yet nearly one in eight 2-year-olds were not fully protected. The immunization disparity between children with health insurance and those with TennCare is substantially less than it was with Medicaid.

The number of substantiated child abuse and neglect cases decreased by almost 10 percent between 1999 and 2001, but more than 9,500 Tennessee children were abused or neglected in 2001.

Twelve percent of Tennessee students receive special education services, and 14 percent of all high school students drop out before graduating. School suspensions increased more than 40 percent from school year 2000 to 2001, with more than one in three suspensions due to drugs.

"Good public policy and investments in children pay big dividends in improving the quality of life for Tennessee children and families," O'Neal concluded.

KIDS COUNT: The State of the Child 2002 contains 33 indicators of child and community well-being on individual county pages and statewide tables. These include information on health, education and economic security, as well as demographic data on children.

The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth is an independent agency created by the Tennessee General Assembly. Its primary mission is to advocate for improvements in the quality of life for Tennessee children and families.

KIDS COUNT: The State of the Child in Tennessee 2002 is published by the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth and is available on the Internet at www.state.tn.us/tccy/kc-soc02.htm. It is partially funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. For more information contact (615) 741-2633 or a TCCY regional coordinator.