Kansas Kids Count released 2012 numbers Thursday and for Ford County, like most Kansas counties, there's good news and bad news.
The count collects statistics in three categories: health, education and economic.
"The good news for Ford County is that your childhood immunization numbers are strong and that's a number that's been going up for Ford County for several years," said Shannon Cotsoradis, president and CEO of Kansas Action for Children, the agency that compiles the count.
The data compares each county to Kansas as a whole and also to counties of similar population density, called peer counties.
In Ford County, the percent of kindergartners fully immunized by the age of 2 is 83 percent. That compares to 73.09 percent for peer counties and 72 percent for the state.
As further proof that Ford County immunization statistics are headed in the right direction, averages over the past five years show Ford County has logged an average increase of 9.18 percent compared to 6.06 percent for peer counties and 5.38 percent for the state.
That's the good news.
Numbers in the data raised concerns in at least five other categories in Ford County.
Ford County appears to be lagging in prenatal care. The percentage of live births to mothers who received adequate or above prenatal care in Ford County is 60.39 percent, compared to 73.48 in peer counties and 79.81 statewide.
The number of infant deaths under age 1 per 1,000 live births in Ford County is 10.34, compared to 6.26 percent statewide.
The percentage of children under 19 with no health insurance coverage in Ford County is 11 percent, compared to 8.14 percent statewide.
"These three areas are often linked," Cotsoradis said. "They combine to affect children is adverse ways."
In addition, five-year trend numbers are headed in the wrong direction in each of these areas.
In economic indicators, Cotsoradis flagged two Ford County numbers: the number of children living below the poverty line and the high number of children receiving free or reduced lunches, another poverty indicator.
The percentage of children under 18 years of age living below 100 percent poverty, which is currently set at an income of $23,050 for a family of four, is 20.60 percent, compared to 18.03 percent statewide.
The percentage of public school children participating in the free and reduced price lunch program in Ford County is 76.88, compared to 48.68 percent statewide.
"We're concerned that, statewide, there's a growth in the number of children in poverty. Almost half of Kansas kids qualify for free or reduced price lunches," Cotsoradis said.
"But on the health front, there's been a decline in the number of kids without health insurance, an increase in immunizations and a decrease in infant mortality, all of which have been addressed by specific initiatives," she said.
As for education, Ford County ranked lower in reading proficiency: 75.81 percent of 5th graders meeting or exceeding standards compared to 87.09 percent statewide.
Page 2 of 2 - The percent of public schools that met Adequate Yearly Progress requirements in Ford County was 62.07 compared to 87.09 percent among peer counties and 79.57 percent statewide.
And the percent of those graduating high school slipped by an average of 2.4 percent per year during the last five years to 82.74 percent.
Tami Knedler, principal director of the Bright Beginnings Early Childhood Center, explained why one particular number on the count was skewed.
"The number for pre-Kindergarten in Ford County is low because it's the percentage of elementary schools that offer preschool programs. In USD 443, one central preschool program serves all nine elementary schools, so that number is misleading," Knedler said in a phone interview Thursday afternoon.
Knedler explained that Bright Beginnings severs 149 students in the Four-Year-Old-At-Risk program, a state-funded program, and 240 in the Head Start program, a federally-funded program.
"Right now we're finding new services for those who qualify and the quality is there but not always the quantity," Knedler said.
Looking ahead, Cotsoradis expressed concern that upcoming policy changes might create barriers to available programs.
Knedler is concerned about possible cuts triggered by the federal budget process.
"If sequestration kicks in, Head Start will be cut and we've been told that state programs could be cut up to 80 percent next year," she said.
"We're running on bare minimum now — we've made a lot of effective cuts but we're running out of wiggle room."
Kansas Action for Children is a private philanthropic organization which is not supported by state or federal funds.