LONGMONT — The Colorado Children’s Campaign stops short of grading the state’s 64 counties A to F.
But in its recently released 2004 KidsCount in Colorado! report, Boulder and Weld counties got significantly different report cards.
“Weld County does not look good,” CCC President Barbara O’Brien said.
Since 1993, CCC has annually analyzed federal, state and local statistics to evaluate about 20 key indicators of child well-being.
Indicators include everything from infant mortality to child abuse and neglect to median household income to the percentage of high school graduates and dropouts.
Boulder and Weld counties differ most from each other in those indicators lumped under the “vulnerable families” title.
The teen birth rate makes the most glaring example. For every 1,000 women ages 15 to 17, the report shows 17 Boulder County youths delivering a baby versus 46 Weld County youths, which is nearly double the state average.
Other indicators showed Boulder County besting state averages as much as Weld County failed to do so.
The percentage of births to moms with no high school diploma was 17 percent in Boulder County, 22 percent statewide and 30 percent in Weld County.
Births to single women reflected a similar pattern: Boulder County reported 18 percent of births to single moms, Colorado 27 percent and Weld 31 percent.
Boulder County Public Health director Chuck Stout called the underlying issues driving these statistics “sensitive” because they involve complex class issues.
When people with no insurance and no information about how to access social services settle in a county, they challenge the system, he said.
Median household income differences — $58,601 in Boulder County versus $42,555 in Weld County — hint at the socio-economic difference that may influence key indicators.
But O’Brien said the single biggest predictor of a child’s success in school is the mother’s level of education.
Stout credited the county’s success to progressive and collaborative county leadership.
“In Boulder County, it’s like there are no wrong doors. If you go in for one service, people will ask you what else you need,” he said. “We should be doing better, and we are.”
Still, Stout said Boulder County has room for improvement.
“None of us (in county leadership) believes we’re there yet, even though we look better than some other places in the state,” he said.
He also noted the asset of having clinics such as Salud Clinic and three others countywide to meet the health-care needs of low-income people.
To better reach vulnerable families, Stout plans on hiring a bilingual outreach worker to improve the county’s record on preventing unintended pregnancies and the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Weld County looked better than Boulder County in one vulnerable family factor: the rate of child abuse and neglect. But Stout said that statistic was a warped one, given Boulder County’s hyper-vigilance in reporting.
“If you think for one second that the incidence rate is lower (in Weld County), you’re smoking something,” he said.
The Weld County public health director was not available for comment Friday.
Pam Mellskog can be reached at 303-678-5224 or by
e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.