Editor’s note: This is a story about the data in the 2018 Kids Count RI Factbook. For related content about speakers at the Factbook release breakfast, see this story – 2018 Factbook released to record crowd.
By Susan Gale
Children under age 18 make up 20% of Rhode island’s residents at 208,640 kids, according to the recently released Kids Count Factbook.
The RI child population decreased 16% between 2000 and 2016 and 95% of RI’s kids were born in the U.S. while 26% live in immigrant families where either they were born outside the U.S. or have at least one parent who is foreign born. Here is a look at the demographics of RI children.
While the percentage of children in poverty continues to decline, in 2016, 17% or 35,106 RI kids lived in poverty
Poverty is defined at the federal level as $19,749 annual income for a family of three and $24,858 for a family of four. Large disparities continue to exist between different ethnic groups and people of color. Between 2012-2016, 59% of Native American, 40% of Hispanic, and 31% of RI black children lived in poverty as compared to 8% of Asian children and 15% of white children. Nearly half of all the children living in poverty between those years were Hispanic (48%). Children under age six were at higher risk of poverty than any other age group with 22.5% (14,639) of these young children living in poverty.
More children are living in emergency homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, or transitional housing facilities
The average cost of rent increased in 2017 (up $100 to $1,385 per month) and more children spent time living in emergency homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, or transitional housing facilities. In 2017, 539 families with 998 children stayed at shelters, up from 515 families with 966 children in 2016. Children made up 22% of people using shelters and slightly more than half (51%, 509 kids) were under age 6.
More Rhode Island families are using Rhode Island’s TCI/Paid Family Leave program
Paid Family Leave reports on the number of approved claims to bond with a new child or to care for a seriously ill family member through Rhode Island’s Temporary Caregiver Insurance Program (TCI). There were 6,224 approved claims for TCI during 2017 (up from 5,882 in 2016 and 4,941 in 2015). Of the approved claims to bond with a new child, 39% were filed by men and 61% were filed by women.
Nutrition programs are reaching fewer RI children and families
Child food insecurity has been shown to decrease by almost one-third after families receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for six months. Of the 163,724 Rhode Islanders enrolled in SNAP in October 2017, 35% (56,580) were children. Of the children enrolled in SNAP, 34% were under the age of six. Between 2016 and 2017, the number of adults receiving SNAP benefits decreased by 3,901, and the number of children receiving SNAP decreased by 3,925.
Women, Infants and Children (WIC) serves pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding women, as well as infants and children under five years of age living in households with incomes at or below 185% of the federal poverty level. Infants and children ages one through four comprised more than three-quarters (77%) of the population being served by WIC in September 2017. At that time, 22,141 Rhode Island women, infants, and children participated in WIC. This is a decrease from September 2016, when 23,244 Rhode Island women, infants, and children participated in WIC.
Health coverage among Rhode Island children is 3rd best in nation, with 98% covered
Between 2014 and 2016, the estimated percentage of children covered exclusively by their parents’ employer-sponsored health plan increased from 51% to 53% and the percentage of children insured exclusively by Medicaid/RIte Care decreased from 33% to 31%.
Rhode Island has high rates of childhood and adolescent immunizations and for several vaccines, RI is the best in the country
According to the 2016 National Immunization Survey–Teen, Rhode Island adolescents ranked first(best) in the U.S. for the 1+MenACWY vaccine; first for the 1+HPV and 3+HPV vaccines for males and females; and second for the 1+Tdap vaccine. Of the immunizations needed for school entry in Rhode Island, entering kindergarteners had coverage rates between 95% and 98%, while entering seventh grade students had rates between 74% and 99%.
While access to preventive dental care is improving, costly hospital care is still an issue
RIte Smiles (Rhode Island’s managed care oral health program) started in 2006, and in June 2017, there were 385 dentists in 250 practice locations participating in RIte Smiles. Half (65,868) of children enrolled in RIte Care, RIte Share, or Medicaid fee-for-service on June 30, 2017 received a dental service during 2017.
Between 2012 and 2016, an average of 593 children were treated for a primary dental-related condition in Rhode Island emergency departments annually. This is a decrease from between 2011 and 2015, when an average of 656 children under age 21 were treated annually. Each year between 2012 and 2016 in Rhode Island, an average of 73 children under age 19 were hospitalized with a diagnosis that included an oral health condition.
The number of babies with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome continues to rise
Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) refers to the withdrawal and negative effects experienced by newborns born to mothers who use opioids and other drugs during pregnancy. In Rhode Island in 2016, 96 babies were diagnosed with NAS, a rate of 89.5 per 10,000 births; down from 114 babies (103.8 per 10,000 births) in 2015 but more than double the rate of 37.2 in 2006. Eighty-six percent of babies born with NAS between 2012 and 2016 in Rhode Island were born to White mothers, 86% were born to mothers who were covered by Medicaid, and 38% lived in the four core cities, which are Central Falls, Pawtucket, Providence and Woonsocket.
There is need for increased access to appropriate mental health services for children and youth
In 2016, an estimated 55% of Rhode Island children ages three to 17 who needed mental health treatment or counseling had a problem obtaining needed care. In 2017, 462 Rhode Island children and youth awaited psychiatric inpatient admission for an average of four days on medical floors at Hasbro Children’s Hospital. This is up from 212 children and an average of three days in 2016.
In 2017, an average of nine children per day were ready to leave the psychiatric hospital (up from the 2016 average of six kids per day), but were unable to leave due to a lack of appropriate step-down availability or there being no other safe placement (including at home). In 2016, there were 3,318 emergency department visits and 2,476 hospitalizations of Rhode Island children with a primary diagnosis of mental disorder. Between 2007 and 2016, emergency department visits increased 24% and hospitalizations increased 38%.
E-cigarette use is significantly higher than cigarette use among Rhode Island youth
In Rhode Island in 2017, 6% of high school students reported currently smoking cigarettes and 19% reported ever smoking cigarettes. In 2017, 20% of high school students reported current use of e-cigarettes and 40% reported ever using e-cigarettes. The Rhode Island General Assembly passed legislation prohibiting the use of e-cigarettes in schools, effective January 1, 2018.
Lead poisoning continues to decline in Rhode Island
The percentage of children entering kindergarten with a history of elevated blood lead levels has steadily declined in all areas of Rhode Island over the past two decades. Compared to the remainder of the state, the core cities (Central Falls, Providence, Pawtucket, and Woonsocket) have twice the rate of children with elevated blood levels.
There is an increase in families participating in evidence-based home visiting programs
As of October 2017, there were 1,090 families enrolled in evidence-based home visiting programs, up from 1,043 families in October 2016. These programs improve children’s language, cognitive, and social-emotional development and lesson abuse and neglect. Families who participate are more likely to provide an enriching home environment, use appropriate discipline strategies, and become more economically secure through education and employment. Some home visiting programs can also improve maternal and child health, reducing long-term health care costs.
Insurance coverage improves access to prenatal care
In the U.S. and Rhode Island, women with commercial insurance have the highest rates of timely prenatal care. In RI between 2012 and 2016, pregnant women who were uninsured were most likely to receive delayed prenatal care (33%) compared to pregnant women with health coverage through RIte Care (19%), and pregnant women with private insurance coverage (10%).
Teen births reach historic low in U.S. and Rhode Island
In 2016, the birth rate for U.S. teens (20 births per 1,000 teen girls) and Rhode Island teens (13 births per 1,000 teen girls) were the lowest ever recorded.
Gun violence affects Rhode Island children, youth, and communities
In the U.S., firearms are the third leading cause of death among children ages one to 17. In Rhode Island between 2012 and 2016, there were 170 emergency department visits and 47 hospitalizations of children and youth for gun-related injuries. Between 2012 and 2016 in Rhode Island, 8% (8) of the 96 injury deaths of children and youth under age 20 were the result of firearms.
Increases in the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) caseload
The total DCYF caseload on December 31, 2017 was 7,133, including 2,318 children living in their homes under DCYF supervision and 2,151 children living in out of home placements. This is an increase from the prior year, when the total DCYF caseload was 6,699, including 2,141 children living in their homes under DCYF supervision and 1,922 children living in out of home placements.
Increases in child maltreatment reports, and abuse and neglect
In 2017 in Rhode Island, there were 2,404 indicated investigations of child abuse and neglect involving 3,357 children, up from 2,074 indicated investigations involving 2,976 children in 2016. In 2017, Rhode Island had 14.6 child victims of abuse and neglect per 1,000 children, up from a rate of 12.3 per 1,000 children in 2016. About half (52%) of the victims of child abuse and neglect in 2017 were young children under age six and one-third (34%) were ages three and younger.
More children in the care of DCYF are in relative foster care homes, and fewer in congregate care placements (residential facilities or group homes)
On December 31, 2017, 293 children were living in a residential facility or group home, a decline from 355 children in December 2016 and 400 children in December 2015. The percentage of kids placed with grandparents or other relatives increased from 35% (721) in 2016 to 40% (888) in 2017, so that 42% of all children in out-of-home placements were placed with relatives.
The number of youth in the custody of the Rhode Island Training School continues to decline but disparities between people of color and white people are still evident
Between 2008 and 2017, the annual total number of youth in the care and custody of the Training School at any point during the year declined from 1,122 to 379. Youth of color are disproportionately more likely than White youth to be incarcerated at the school. During 2017, Black youth made up 30% of youth at the Training School, while making up only 6% of the child population.
Forty-one percent of Rhode Island’s low-income children are benefiting from public preschool through Head Start and the State pre-K Program
As of the 2017-2018 school year, there were 2,267 children enrolled in either Head Start or State Pre-K during the year before kindergarten, approximately 23% of all children and 41% of low-income children. Of these children, 52% were enrolled in Head Start and 48% were enrolled in State Pre-K.
Slight decrease in public school enrollment
Over the past 10 years, Rhode Island public school enrollment has decreased 2% — from 145,342 on October 1, 2008, to 142,949 students on October 1, 2017.
Largest percentage of English learners in RI are in the early grades
In 2016-2017, 11% of all children in grades K-3 in Rhode Island (4,757) were English learners compared to 6% of students in grades 4-6, 7% in grades 7-9, and 6% in grades 10-12. In 2017, the Rhode Island General Assembly made permanent a categorical program to provide additional support for the costs associated with educating English learners.
Racial and economic disparities can be seen in the number of children meeting or exceeding expectations on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) English language arts assessment
According to Kids Count, policymakers can increase third-grade reading proficiency by increasing access to high-quality child care, Pre-K, and Head Start; providing parents with supports to create enriched language and literacy opportunities beginning at birth; expanding access to high-quality summer learning programs; and addressing chronic early absence.
Improvements made in the math skills among Rhode Island students
From 2015 to 2017, the percentage of students meeting expectations on the PARCC math assessment increased for third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh grades. In 2017, 44% of Rhode Island third graders met expectations, up from 36% in 2015.
Chronic absence remains an area that needs improvement in RI schools
During the 2016-2017 school year, 13% of all Rhode Island children in grades K-3 were chronically absent, and an additional 16% missed 12 to 17 days of school. This is an increase from the year prior, when 11% were chronically absent, and 14% missed 12 to 17 days of school. Thirty-seven states are prioritizing reducing chronic absence by making chronic absence rates a key part of their accountability systems in their ESSA state plans. Rhode Island is including both student and teacher chronic absence rates in its accountability system.
Reductions in out of school suspensions
During the 2016-2017 school year, kindergarteners received 148 out-of-school suspensions. This is a decrease from the year prior, when kindergartners received 179 out-of-school suspensions. From the 2015-2016 school year to the 2016-2017 school year, the number of out-of-school suspensions in all grades decreased by 14%, but more than half of out-of-school suspensions were still for non-violent offenses, such as insubordination/disrespect, disorderly conduct, obscene/abusive language, alcohol/drug/tobacco offenses, and electronic devices/technology offenses.
Slight decrease in the high school graduation rate
The Rhode Island four-year graduation rate for the Class of 2017 was 84%, down from 85% for the Class of 2016.
Rhode Island students are preparing for college, but disparities in college enrollment exist
Rhode Island covers the cost for all high school students to take the SAT during the school day in eleventh grade as a key strategy to increase college access. In 2017, 79% of 11th graders completed the SAT. Students who participate in AP courses are likely to attend and succeed in college. In 2017, 5,542 Rhode Island public school students took an AP course, 34% more than in 2013.
High school seniors who have completed a FAFSA by May and been accepted to a four-year college are 50% more likely to enroll than students who have not completed their FAFSA
Across Rhode Island school districts, FAFSA completion rates range from a low of 40-44% to a high of 80% or greater.
Fifty-nine percent of Rhode Island students who graduated from high school in the Class of 2016 immediately enrolled in college
However, there are large gaps in college access, particularly four-year college enrollment, between low- and higher-income students as well as by race and ethnicity. While 73% of higher income students immediately enrolled in college, 45% of low-income students immediately enrolled in college.
College enrollment and completion
Fifty-three percent of Rhode Island public high school graduates who enrolled in a two- or four-year college in 2010 earned a college diploma within six years. In Rhode Island, there are large gaps in college completion between low-income and higher-income students, with 37% of low-income students completing college within six years, compared to 60% of higher-income students.