The message of Kids Count: We must strive to help children
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Nov 18, 2009 | 1440 views |  0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Pessimists and heavy-handed detractors have sharpened their scalpels since this year's Kids Count data dripped melancholy over segments of Calhoun County.

The data released last week says Calhoun County's child-poverty rate is higher than the state's.

What an embarrassment, those detractors say.

The data says Calhoun County's percentage of births to unmarried teens remains in double digits.

A discomforting show, those pessimists lament.

The data says Calhoun County has an unusually high percentage of children who display signs of abuse or neglect.

That's an abomination, the naysayers cry out.

And violent crime among juveniles? It's too high, Kids Count says. And special education enrollment? It's below the state average, but it's nearly double digits, as well. At least the county's overall graduation rate improved.

It's enough to make one believe that negativity is spread everywhere, that Calhoun County's child-welfare ailments are profound and seemingly hopeless.

If that's your preference — to zero in on the downbeat, ignoring any hints of positive movement — you're likely not alone. Such misery often gathers in groups.

Of course, constant unconstructiveness does no one any good.

Granted, the obvious can't be covered by layers of spin or ignorance. The living conditions of too many Calhoun County children are wrought with despair, neglect and violence. We didn't need Kids Count, a reputable study compiled by the VOICES for Alabama's Children organization, to re-introduce us to the problem of lagging child-welfare issues. But we got it, nonetheless.

Truth is, Calhoun County is like many others in Alabama; Linda Tilly, executive director for VOICES, told The Star as much last week. The county is a gumbo of humanity — scattered pockets of the well-to-do, a generous middle class and a significant number of residents who continue to survive precariously near, or below, the poverty line.

In that sense, Calhoun County is Alabama. And in this state, for every Mountain Brook and Hoover there are just as many communities — more, in fact — where residents exist as best they can each day, or where children often are caught up in violent activities or parental neglect.

Despite advances in the modern-day welfare of many children in Alabama, staunch improvement must remain an annual goal. Calhoun County is no different.

The Kids Count data can be shocking, though Randy Reaves, Calhoun County chief probation officer for juvenile court, told The Star that the county's juvenile crime numbers are "nowhere out of line compared to anywhere else" for certain violent offenses.

That's a debatable stance, perhaps best left for another day.

More importantly, let's expect this year's Kids Count report to serve as a stern wake-up call for parents, child-welfare agencies and anyone who cares about Calhoun County's future.

As we've been reminded, there are children in Calhoun County who need help, who require a guiding voice, who could use a hand up, not a hand out. Helping them can be a worthwhile legacy for all of us.
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The message of Kids Count: We must strive to help children by The Anniston Star Editorial Board

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