Improving Outcomes for Children in Tennessee: TCCY Releases New KIDS COUNT: State of the Child in Tennessee

Tuesday, August 01, 2017 | 6:39am

The KIDS COUNT: The State of the Child in Tennessee 2016 report released today by the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth (TCCY) focuses on the importance of preventing and responding appropriately to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), current ACEs data for Tennessee, and also ranks counties on child well-being.

“Research demonstrates Adverse Childhood Experiences can disrupt brain development, especially in young children,” said Linda O’Neal, TCCY executive director, “and present lifelong challenges for success in school, relationships, employment, and health across the lifespan.”

The original ACEs study focused on child abuse and neglect and family dysfunction, and revealed the prevalence of these conditions, even in families that appear to be prospering. It demonstrated people with more ACEs were more likely to face health and mental health challenges.

This report includes the most recent data on ACEs in Tennessee from the Department of Health Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

While two in five adults in Tennessee have experienced no ACEs, more than one in six Tennesseans has experienced four or more ACEs, the critical point where outcomes are increasingly compromised. Tennesseans with four or more ACEs report lower average income, lower educational attainment, poorer health, and higher rates of obesity, smoking, depression and heart disease.

Building Strong Brains: Tennessee’s ACEs Initiative is a public/private effort to change the culture of Tennessee to focus on preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences whenever possible, and to mitigating their impact when they cannot be prevented. Providing safe, stable, nurturing environments encourages healthy brain development and improves outcomes for individuals and prosperity for the state.

County Rankings

The old real estate rule of “location, location, location,” is also true for the well-being of children, according to data in the report showing the overall well-being of children varies according where they live.

Research shows children with the same risk factors fare differently on issues like educational success, life expectancy and economic mobility based on their neighborhood.

The child well-being rankings for the Tennessee counties in KIDS COUNT: The State of the Child in Tennessee report the range of outcomes from Williamson County, which ranked the best, to Shelby County, where children face the most obstacles.

“Where children live can have a substantial impact on the trajectory of their lives,” added O’Neal, “and supportive, nurturing communities and good public policies can be instrumental in helping overcome poverty, adversity and other challenging circumstances.”

TCCY ranked counties based on data organized into four domains, Economic Well-Being, Education, Health, and Family & Community. Each domain is made up of three measures of child well-being. Economic Well-Being included Child Poverty, Median Household Income and Fair Market Rent. Education was comprised of Reading Proficiency, Math Proficiency and High School Graduation Rate. Health measures ranked were Low Birthweight Babies, Children Without Health Insurance, and Child and Teen Deaths. The Family and Community domain includes Teen Pregnancy, Schools Suspension Rate and Substantiated Abuse and Neglect.

Child poverty, one of the measures comprising the Economic Well-Being domain, varies greatly, with one in 20 children in Williamson County living in poverty while nearly half the children in Lake County do. Only a little more than three of every four students in Sequatchie and Shelby counties graduated from high school on time compared to Lauderdale County, which had nearly every student graduate (99.1 percent).

More than one in eight Fayette County K-12 students have been suspended; eight counties are tied for No. 1 ranking with no suspensions.

The percentage of children without health insurance coverage in the lowest ranked counties is double that of the best ranked counties.

Many of the better ranking counties surround Nashville or are in West Tennessee. Williamson County, in addition to ranking best overall, ranked best in three of the domains: Economic Well-Being, Education and Family & Community. Weakley County in West Tennessee ranked second overall and best in the Health domain.

Washington County scored best in East Tennessee at ninth. The counties with the highest levels of child well-being were Williamson, Weakley, Wilson, Rutherford and Sumner. Counties where child well-being was most challenged were Shelby, Lake, Union, Clay and Sequatchie.

The report includes overviews of and tables of county rankings for the four domains and county rankings for each factor composing the domains.

The KIDS COUNT: The State of the Child in Tennessee is available online at http://tn.gov/tccy/article/tccy-kcsoc16. Profiles for individual counties, including how each ranks overall and on the domains by linking to the county pages, are available at http://www.tn.gov/tccy/article/tccy-kc-soc16-counties.

Additional statewide and county data are available on the KIDS COUNT Data Center at http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data#TN/2/0/char/0.

The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth is an independent state 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. TCCY is a state KIDS COUNT® affiliate, and partial funding is provided through a grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to disadvantaged children. KIDS COUNT® is a registered trademark of the Annie E. Casey Foundation

For more information, contact (615) 741-2633 or a TCCY regional coordinator.