Denver one of fifteen "at risk" counties for young children, report says

In which counties are Colorado children at the most risk? The Colorado Early Childhood Needs Assessment, a just-released report, answers that question via reams of data on infant and child deaths, child poverty numbers and high school dropout rates. So how does Denver measure up?

Denver is one of fifteen "high-risk" counties in the state, according to the report, which was published by the Early Childhood Leadership Commission, a group created by lawmakers in 2010 to promote policies that help young children. Overall, 27 counties were deemed "moderate risk," while 22 were classified as "low risk." See a map below.

The rankings are based on thirteen indicators, including infant mortality, premature births, child abuse, child deaths, juvenile crime, poverty and unemployment. Those indicators were chosen by the feds, who asked Colorado to identify fifteen at-risk counties in order to receive a grant that would provide at-home visits for new parents.

But Colorado decided to expand its analysis. Report authors examined another 24 indicators for each county in the areas of early learning, family support, mental health and physical health. The counties weren't graded on a scale this time, but the report does provide a chart with each county's statistics. See Denver's below.

Jennifer Stedron, the executive director of the Early Childhood Leadership Commission, says she hopes counties use the report "to analyze their strengths and weaknesses and where they might need to go as a community and where they might need to focus.

"What it offers is a single place where they can get a lot of data -- and data that's across the whole child perspective," Stedron says. Some counties may know what their third grade reading scores are, she adds, but the report allows them to analyze those numbers alongside data about behavioral issues and childhood obesity rates.

And when it comes to early childhood, the state hopes to do more. Senate Bill 130, which was passed by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee yesterday, would create a state Office of Early Childhood. The office would develop a statewide plan for delivering early childhood services and look for ways to consolidate the many early childhood funding streams. Doing so could help attract more federal dollars, Stedron says. According to her, "There's a priority on coordination and collaboration, and we can do that better."

More from our News archive: "State spending on children decreasing while child poverty increasing, report shows." Like the Melanie Asmar/Westword Facebook page.

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