A report on the status of Utah children paints a bleak portrait of the future for many.
"Key Facts About Children in Utah: Children and Families at Risk" was released by the Utah Children organization Friday. It predicts where children who now are entering the first grade will be in 2002 if current trends persist.According to the report:
- One in four children will be poor.
- One in five will be at risk of becoming a teen parent.
- One in six will not have health insurance.
- One is seven will drop out of school.
Utah Children is a non-profit advocacy organization that hopes to educate Utahns about the needs of children, according to director Rosalind McGee. The agency actively monitors legislation and policies that affect children, she said.
The report is a statistical look at Utahns. McGee said she hopes it will be used to provide policymakers and concerned citizens with the facts they need to improve the lives of Utah children.
According to the report, its publication will encourage good planning and wise use of resources.
"National priorities of the last decade have given us the highest poverty rate in 15 years," the study says. "Limited access to prenatal care, health screening and immunizations have resulted in unprecedented numbers of low birth weight babies and children who suffer disease and disability in their formative years.
"Belt-tightening cuts in nutrition programs have deprived our poorest children of what they need most - basic sustenance. These cuts to children will never heal."
The report cites several things that will determine the future of children, including nutrition, child care, family finances, education, developmental screening, crisis services for victims of family violence and training for "meaningful" jobs.
The benefits of providing good prevention services will be both economic and emotional.
Utah Children found that an estimated 31,000 of the state's 426,000 families - about 82,000 children - live in poverty. Almost half of those families have a single, female head of household.
As of September of 1989, 3,995 families were on public assistance for three of the past five years.
The study also found that about 20,000 children under 18 are emotionally or socially impaired. State mental-health centers and the Utah State Hospital have provided treatment to 4,733 of them. Alcohol and drug abuse are rampant as well; an estimated 13,000 children under 18 are substance abusers. State-sponsored mental-health centers have treated about 350 of them.
The 14-page study also provides statistics about child-support enforcement, maternal and child health, education, abuse and neglect, shelter care, juvenile justice and youth services.
The study was made possible, McGee said, by funding from the FHP Foundation. For more information on the report, call Utah Children, 321-5772.