Kentucky ranks 34th overall in study on well-being of children

PADUCAH —  Kentucky ranks 34th in the nation when it comes to the well-being of children. That’s from the new Kids Count report.

I talked with leaders of two organizations working to change that in McCracken County.

At the Oscar Cross Boys and Girls Club in Paducah on Monday, Executive Director Neal Clark said they serve kids in two important ways. “Number one, we’re a club that gets kids off the street. That’s our number one goal. Number two is to let them have fun,” said Clark.

Right around the corner is Family Service Society. Executive Director Candace Melloy said they have a food pantry, a clothing room, and they help families pay for utilities.

“We help with basic necessities.” said Melloy.”We see that it’s not just food that needs to be in the shelves. It’s not just the utility assistance that’s needed. If we can help them with everything, then that is going to give them a better chance of succeeding in the future.”

Melloy and Clark both talked with me about the 2019 KIDS COUNT Data Book. The results don’t speak well for Kentucky. In addition to the low overall ranking, the state ranks 37th in economic stability for homes. Melloy sees families struggle to find jobs that pay enough to provide for their kids first hand.

“In McCracken County, there’s a lot of jobs that are part time. You know, they don’t even offer full time.” said Melloy. “Or they do offer full time, but it’s not paying enough for a living wage.”

Kentucky ranks 27th in education; 62% of fourth-graders are below-average readers.

At the Boys and Girls Club, Clark said employees are continuing education for kids outside of the classroom. The club has its own library and summer reading program. Some club staff are also teachers.

“Most of our staff works with Paducah Independent School Systems or they have a career as a teacher or some form of fashion as a staff member with the school system,” said Clark.

These two organizations are looking to improve those numbers, and the lives of our kids.