The annual Kids Count in Michigan report found about 32,500 children in the state were confirmed as victims of abuse or neglect in 2010. The largest increase was in a category where the risk to children is deemed low to moderate, and it was widespread: Only seven of Michigan’s 83 counties saw a drop in their rate.
Ottawa County saw a 1.2-percent increase in confirmed victims of child abuse or neglect cases from 2009 to 2010. The number increased from 243 cases to 324 cases, according to the report.
Abuse or neglect rose in part because more children are living with chronic health conditions, such as asthma and obesity, and amid family stress associated with social and economic problems. And such situations are aggravated by prevention programs being cut or eliminated, the report’s authors said.
The report provides a county-by-county snapshot of income, health, education and other measures related to child welfare using data from several state and federal agencies — particularly the Michigan Department of Health and the U.S. Census Bureau. The Michigan League for Human Services, a Lansing-based group advocating for low-income residents, compiles and releases the report with help from child advocacy group Michigan’s Children.
“When people live in extreme poverty ... housing is destabilized, dependency increases — everything gets thrown into the mix when you’re in such desperate circumstances,” said Jane Zehnder-Merrell, director of the Kids Count in Michigan project for the Michigan League for Human Services.
Zehnder-Merrell said other findings in the report underscore the abuse and neglect statistics. The percentage of children living in families with an annual income below the poverty level — $17,600 for a one-parent family of three, $22,100 for a two-parent family of four — increased from 14 percent to 23 percent between 2000 and 2010.
Researchers this year drilled down further to look at levels of poverty, and found the percentage of children living in extreme poverty — $8,800 annual income for a one-parent family of three, $11,100 for a two-parent family of four — doubled during the same period, from 5 percent to 11 percent.
Not all of the report’s findings are negative: It found drops in Michigan’s child death rate as well as its high school dropout rate. Michigan’s teen birth rate dropped by 21 percent between 2000 and 2009, and it was below the national average, but Zehnder-Merrell said the U.S. has a higher teen birth rate than other industrialized nations.
In Ottawa County, the high school dropout rate decreased from 285 in 2009 to 225 in 2010. Meanwhile, the report showed the number of county students graduating from high school increased from 2,737 to 2,877.
Tribune writer Kyle Moroney, and Associated Press writers Jeff Karoub and Kathy Barks Hoffman contributed to this report.
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