By: Juli Metzger—
Muncie, IN—There is progress to report in the latest available statistics that measure trends among Indiana’s youth, experts said at the recent Indiana Youth Institute State of the Child in Muncie.
Cigarette use among Indiana’s youngest is on the decline, and the number of children in working-poor households is going down, for example. The number of high-quality early childhood programs is on the rise, statewide.
But statistics also show that vaping is on the rise among young people and children Indiana infants are more likely to die in their first year than those in 43 other states.
Nearly 150 youth workers, community advocates and statewide stakeholders spent a full morning in Muncie last week diving deep into the statistics then broke into two discussion groups that examined the concept of “webbing up” a child. Jenni Marsh, president and CEO of United Way of Delaware, Randolph and Henry Counties led one group talking about the latest initiative by Muncie Action Plan that promotes protective factors like mentorship, quality after-school programming, and engaging more supportive adults to positively influence a child’s life.
The idea is that everyone one person needs five others to build a web of support around them, making it more likely they’ll succeed, even thrive. Marsh and MAP are advocating that it is a new way of community building, being there for each other more than ever.
The event, sponsored by the United Way of Delaware, Henry and Randolph Counties, and Ball State University, is made possible by the Indiana Youth Institute, the state’s premiere voice for youth workers and a statewide advocate for all issues facing Hoosier youth. I have the privilege of representing Delaware County on this statewide board.
Some statistics are particularly challenging and ought to give us a sense of urgency:
- Delaware County ranks third in the state for the number of children growing up in poverty.
- Delaware County ranks four for the number of children on a waitlist for a CASA volunteer, an indication of the overburdened foster care system.
- Delaware County is in the top 10, ranking No. 7 for the percentage of children living with food insecurity. In fact, we tied with Wayne and Randolph Counties with 19.5% of the population in those communities who are food insecure. It means, nearly 1 in 5 in these communities are without consistent access to food. Yet, that number is better than it used to be.
Tammy Pearson, Executive Director of Project Leadership, the local non-profit that aims to get students to and through college or post-secondary training, led another discussion group and talked about supporting social and emotional resilience in youth and explored how the Indiana State Department of Education competencies are influencing a new comprehensive counseling effort across the region.
The 2020 KIDS COUNT®Data Book is available for download here. County-by-county snapshots also are available for download.
IYI reminds us that every adult in Indiana is a mandatory reporter of child abuse and neglect. It’s your responsibility. It is my responsibility. It is our responsibility.
Juli A. Metzger is a board member for the Indiana Youth Institute, representing Delaware County.