NEWARK, NJ - Monmouth County remained steady at 6th place in the annual New Jersey Kids Count rankings, which measure progress in improving the lives of children in 13 critical areas.
The well-being of Monmouth County children progressed in several areas, including more women receiving early prenatal care, a drop in juvenile arrests and births to young females, along with an increase in child care options for Monmouth parents.
The county lost ground, however, in other areas, including an increase in child poverty and a decline in the number of low-income students receiving free- or reduced-price school breakfast.
“While the rankings shift every year, we see certain trends across many counties, including increasing child poverty, unemployment and high housing costs,” said Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey, which publishes the Kids Count reports. “These statistics should be used to inform local, county and state leaders, as well as community organizations, in their efforts to improve the well-being of all New Jersey children.”
“It is very positive when more women receive early prenatal care, which can help ensure healthier babies,” Zalkind said. “The decline in births to young females and juveniles being arrested is also encouraging. The drop in school breakfast participation is disappointing, however.”
Some key Monmouth County findings follow.
Child Care Supply. Monmouth County’s families have more child care options as its licensed child care supply increased from 700 slots per 1,000 children between the ages of 0 and 4 to 709 slots in 2012. The county ranked 7th on this indicator, up from 8th last year.
Births to Young Females. Four percent of all births in Monmouth were to a female between the ages of 10 and 19 in 2009, the latest year data are available. This is drop from 5 percent the year prior, resulting in a rise in the Kids Count rankings from 9th last year to 7th.
School Breakfast. The county slipped to 8th place from 6th last year for its student participation in the federally-funded school breakfast program. In the 2010-11 school year, 29 percent of eligible children received free- or reduced-price school breakfast, down from 27 percent in 2011-12.
Monmouth County schools, like most in New Jersey, can do better by serving breakfast to students in the first few minutes of the school day. Known as “breakfast after the bell,” this approach significantly increases the number of students starting their day with the nutrition they need to concentrate and learn. Currently, many districts serve breakfast before school -- when most students have not yet arrived
In addition to releasing the county rankings, Advocates for Children of New Jersey also released:
New Jersey Kids Count 2013: The State of Our Children, which provides state-level data, including a special section on the well-being of New Jersey’s infants and toddlers.
New Jersey Kids Count 2013: The State of Our Counties, a pocket guide that provides a 5-year comparison of various measures of child well-being, including poverty, health, education and child protection.
To help counties use the data to address the needs of children, Advocates for Children is hosting Kids Count Regional Forums across the state, bringing together county, city and state leaders with the people in the community who work with children and families.
“These forums are designed to foster discussions about the data that result in concrete action at the state, county and local levels,” Zalkind said. “When we use data to drive critical decisions about responding to the needs of children, everyone benefits -- children, families, our communities and our state.”