2011-04-14 / News

Island children stack up well against other municipalities

By Tim Riel

Rhode Island Kids Count, a children’s policy and advocacy organization based out of Providence, recently released its 17th annual fact book. According to the data, the well-being of children in Jamestown stacks up favorably with the other 38 cities and towns in Rhode Island making it one of the best municipalities in the state to raise a child.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the child population in Jamestown is 1,043, down from 2000’s total of 1,238. Most numbers accumulated by Kids Count have stayed relatively similar for the island over the five-year span from 2006 to 2010, with a few exceptions.

There were 22, 21 and 21 children receiving food stamp benefits in Jamestown in 2006, 2007 and 2008, respectively, but that number shot up to 40 in 2009. In 2010, even though the total number of children receiving those benefits in Rhode Island increased by more than 6,000, Jamestown declined by 12.5 percent.

For comparison, Little Compton, which has similar demographics to Jamestown, has risen from eight children receiving food stamps in 2006 to 42 children last year, an increase of 425 percent. Jamestown increase over that time — from 22 to 35 — is just 59 percent.

Municipalities on Aquidneck Island have also all shown increases in children receiving food stamps: Newport rose 54 percent, Middletown rose 131 percent and Portsmouth rose 226 percent over the five-year period.

Another significant decline is in the number of island children receiving medical assistance. In 2009, Jamestown was at its highest point in the five-year span with 104 children receiving assistance. Although the state numbers in that category have been steadily increasing since 2008, Jamestown dropped 24 percent last year: only 79 children received medical assistance in 2010.

The island’s teen-birth rate — how many babies are born to girls ages 15 to 19 — has also been trending in the right direction. For every 1,000 girls in that age group, Jamestown’s birth rate has dropped each year, from 8.2 in 2006 to 1.4 in 2010. The Rhode Island average in 2010 was 30.1 births per 1,000 girls, a far cry from Jamestown’s number.

Alcohol and drug use among Jamestown teens were some of the lowest in the state: 16 percent of middle school students said that they have “drunk beer, wine or other alcohol (other than religious reasons),” while just one percent of island teens said that they have taken “an illegal drug other than alcohol or cigarettes.”

For all participating schools — Woonsocket and West Warwick were the only two school districts that didn’t take part in the survey — the alcohol rate is only bested by Little Compton (11 percent), North Kingstown (12 percent) East Greenwich (13 percent) and Barrington (15 percent), while the drug rate is the best in the state. The highest number for alcohol participation is Pawtucket at 30 percent and for drug participation is Burrillville at 14 percent.

Of the four categories that Kids Count breaks its data into — financial, health, safety and education — children have been most negatively affected on the island over the last year in the safety aspect.

The safety numbers concerning Jamestown children over the last three years have been on a roller coaster ride. In 2008, 4.8 children out every 1,000 were victims of neglect or child abuse. The rate of children with incarcerated parents was four for every 1,000 and the percentage of domestic violence incidents that had children present was 42 percent, higher than the Rhode Island average of 29 percent for the year.

In 2009, those numbers dramatically improved. Child-abuseand neglect numbers went from 4.8 to less than one, children with incarcerated parents dropped to 1.6 for every 1,000 children and the domestic violence percentage fell to just 17 percent, well below the state average of 31 percent that year.

Last year, the numbers took a turn for the worse in Jamestown. Child abuse jumped up to 8.1 children per 1,000, more than nine times more than 2009. Children with incarcerated parents increased from 1.6 per 1,000 to 6.5, and the domestic violence percentage rose back about the state average: In 2010, a child was present 33 percent of the time during a domestic violence incident, compared to the state average of 29 percent.

Although the safety numbers do stack up well against most other towns and cities in the state, the increase over one year’s time can still be alarming.

As for education, Jamestown remains one of the best municipalities in the state. According to the data, 100 percent of eligible children are enrolled in full-day kindergarten. The state average is 60 percent. Fourth graders and eighth graders at or above the reading proficiency level is 82 percent (state: 69 percent) and 93 percent (74 percent), respectively. Fourth graders and eighth graders at or above the math profi ciency level is 77 percent (63 percent) and 83 percent (54 percent), respectively.

Data on chronic early absence was not available until 2009 for Jamestown, and since then its total has doubled from 6 percent in 2009 to 12 percent last year, although it is still under the state average.

The suspension rate is one student per 100 last year, down from three per 100 in 2009. The state average is 30 out of every 100 students.

The entire 180-page fact book can be located online at the Rhode Island Kids Count Web site.

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