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Hartselle Enquirer

Survey rates county 22nd

By Staff
Annual study evaluates welfare of children
Leada DeVaney, Hartselle Enquirer
Morgan County ranks 22nd out of 67 Alabama counties in the well-being of children, according to a statewide survey released last week.
Voices for Alabama's Children, an advocacy group, released the survey last week. It covers such topics as healthcare, education and juvenile crime.
Morgan County received its highest scores in the first grade retention category, which ranks the counties on the number of first graders held back each year. Morgan County received the state's fifth best ranking, with 4.4 percent of first grade students not going on to second grade.
The county's lowest ranking was 57th, in the category showing the juvenile substance abuse arrest rate. That category shows the number of arrests of those under age 18 for the sale or possession of illegal drugs, driving under the influence of alcohol, or violation of liquor laws. Sixty-four Morgan County teens arrested last year were included in this category.
Other Morgan County scores and rankings include:
o Juvenile Violent Crime Court Referral Rate – 54 teens were adjudicated through the juvenile court system in Morgan County last year. This earned the county a 21 ranking.
o Single parent families with children – The county was ranked 23rd in the number of single parent families with children. There were 4,282 single-parent families in Morgan County last year.
o Births to unmarried teens – The county ranked 24th out of 67 in the number of births to unmarried teens. There were 135 such births last year.
o Event dropout rate – This figure shows the number of students who drop out of grades nine-12. Morgan County ranked 25th in the state for the number of drop outs, with 209 students quitting school last year.
o Child death rate – Morgan County's child death rate also earned a 25 state ranking. Morgan County reported two deaths of children ages 1 to 14.
o Vulnerable families – Morgan County ranked 28th in the vulnerable families, with 78 such in the county. The study defines vulnerable families as first births to unmarried teenage mother who had not finished high school.
o Infant mortality rate – The county's ranked 29th in infant mortality, with 9 deaths reported last year.
o Child health index – The county ranked 35th in the child health index, a comprehensive category that includes such items as prenatal care, maternal weight gain, maternal smoking and alcohol use.
o Juvenile violent crime arrest rate – Morgan County ranked 37th in this category. This category includes all juveniles referred to the court system because of murder or manslaughter, rape, robbery or assault. Six juveniles fell into this category last year.
o Low birth weights – The county ranked 40th in the number of low birth weight babies, with 132 births reported last year. Low birth weight is defined as 5.5 pounds or less.
o Children with indication of abuse or neglect – Three-hundred and twelve cases were reported last year, earning the county a 41 ranking.
o Preventable teen death – There were four such deaths reported in the county last year, earning a 45th ranking. Preventable teen deaths are those from suicide, homicide or accidents.
o Juvenile substance abuse court referral rate – The county ranked 47th in this category, with 128 referrals last year. The category deals with those teenager referred to the courts for sale or possession of illegal drugs, driving under the influence or violation of liquor laws.
Officials with Voices for Alabama's Children say much of the data shows a county's successful scores are linked directly with income.
The state's best-scoring county, Shelby County, has a median income of $64,105. The worst-scoring county, Bullock County, has a median income of $23,990.
Morgan County's median income is $45,827.
In a similar national study, Alabama ranked 48th for child wellbeing. The median income in Alabama is $41,657.