Kids Count study results should be call to action

The annual Kids Count in Michigan study takes an in-depth look at the well-being of youth in the state, including how they can be affected by such things as economic status, access to health care and education.

The 2013 study, released earlier this week, took a little different approach than in the past. Traditionally, the effort focused on differences among children of different racial and ethnic backgrounds.

This year, however, it examined the differences in the lives of children from county to county, and shed some light on challenges youngsters in the Upper Peninsula face.

While the U.P. followed the rest of the state in many areas, there were two distinct differences: the U.P. is showing higher increases in babies born with low birth weights and the number of children in families investigated for allegations of abuse or neglect.

Local officials who work in fields dealing with children and their welfare point to low birth weights likely being caused by the increasing drug problem in Marquette County.

In addition, the study showed another factor that could be affecting low birth weights is less access to pre-natal care for expectant mothers, which can also lead to a higher infant mortality rate.

In regard to abuse and neglect in children’s homes in the area, officials said this is probably tied to better outreach programs that identify more of the problem homes.

While one issue appears to be expanding and the other being discovered more often, both are serious problems that need to be addressed by the appropriate local, state and federal officials.

A panel of local child welfare officials that was part of a press conference this week announcing the study results pointed to more funding being needed for services relating to children to make progress in problem areas.

While we agree that proper funding of these programs is needed, we believe the efforts of those involved should be fully focused on working on the problems rather than just the issue of more funds to pay for the programs.