KIDS Count in Colorado: Surprising Colorado trends in mental health, poverty and more
posted by: Mile High Mamas
The Colorado Children’s Campaign released its thirtieth annual KIDS COUNT in Colorado! report on August 29, 2023. The report tracks child well-being at both the state and county levels in the areas of family economic prosperity, child and family health, early childhood learning and development, and youth success.
Building Understanding: Youth Mental Health and Well-Being in Colorado, the 2023 edition of KIDS COUNT in Colorado!, spotlights trends in youth mental health and access to care. It includes an overview of the most recent data on the topic and offers recommendations for policy action to promote youth mental health in the years ahead.
The report finds that nearly every source of data on youth has identified concerning increases in mental health struggles in recent years. But access to resources is limited. For instance, ratios of students to school-based mental health providers such as school psychologists or school social workers are much higher than professional associations recommend, according to a first-of-its-kind analysis of data from the Colorado Department of Education. One hundred thirteen of Colorado’s 178 school districts had no licensed school psychologists employed by the district. A similar number of districts had no school social workers. And 35 school districts had no school counselor.
The 2023 KIDS COUNT in Colorado! report highlights promising programs and efforts to support youth mental health across the state. It also features insights from young people as part of a partnership with the YouthScan Project, a statewide digital initiative that puts youth voices front and center in the decisions that impact their lives.
Other data from the 2023 KIDS COUNT in Colorado report include:
- The share of Colorado kids without health insurance fell from 5.5% in 2019 to 4.6% in 2021—reflecting 12,000 fewer children without health coverage. But post-pandemic policy changes mean many children are likely to lose their coverage in the year ahead.
- In 2020, firearms surpassed motor vehicle crashes to become the leading cause of death for American children ages 1 to 19 for the first time on record. In Colorado, 83 Colorado kids and teens ages 19 and under were killed by guns—the highest number on record in at least 20 years and more than double the number of kids killed by guns in 2000.
- Across Colorado, the need for child care outpaces its supply. Colorado’s licensed child care centers, family child care homes and preschools have capacity to serve just two-thirds of the children estimated to need care based on labor force participation among parents.
- Although Colorado’s overall child poverty rate sits well below the national rate of 17%, some communities in our state have child poverty rates more than twice the national average. Costilla County had the highest child poverty rate in the state in 2021, at 36%. Douglas County had the state’s lowest child poverty rate, at just 3%.
- Colorado has stubborn disparities in child poverty rates by race and ethnicity – the result of a long history of policies that have created and maintained barriers to opportunity for people of color. Between 2017 and 2021, poverty rates for American Indian or Alaska Native children and Black or African-American children in Colorado were triple the rates for white children; the poverty rate for Hispanic or Latino children in our state was more than double the rate for white children.
- Temporary expansions to the Child Tax Credit made in response to the pandemic cut child poverty in half in 2021—yet Congress let the expansions expire in December 2021, sending millions more U.S. kids back into poverty.
- In the 2021-2022 school year, more than one-third of Colorado students (36%) were chronically absent, a sharp rise from 26% the previous year.
- The use of some substances, such as alcohol and tobacco, has become much less common among Colorado youth in recent years. Other indicators of substance use, such as the use of prescription pain medication without a prescription and the number of deaths due to accidental overdose, are stagnant or increasing.
KIDS COUNT in Colorado! is part of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s national KIDS COUNT project and complements the 2023 national data book, which was released on June 14. KIDS COUNT serves as an important source of quality, unbiased information on children and families for decision-makers and child advocates.