How are Westchester’s children faring? In January 2014, we released a data brief on the state of Westchester’s children and youth, including information on poverty, education, health, and well-being. The publication was made possible through a grant from Westchester Community Foundation.
What does the data mean?
We got some great feedback about the bulletin, but as much as we tried to avoid number vomit at all costs, we also hear the question “What does the data mean?”. I can tell you what I see when I look at this bulletin
Westchester is a diverse community
- This first page tells us that Westchester is represented by a multitude of races and ethnicity. We can also see that the families of Westchester are represented by two-parent and single-parent families. And single-parent families are quite vulnerable to poverty.
- We see that younger children are also more likely to be poor, and have higher poverty rates than their older counterparts.
- Westchester children rely on public services for basic needs, such as food and health insurance.
The message is clear, our youngest are our most vulnerable and need our protection.
We need to be alert
- For Westchester’s most vulnerable, in this case child abuse victims: We see that in Westchester, the percentage of child abuse reports that are found to be valid, “the substantiation rate”, has been declining at a steeper rate than New York State. This may be also the result of stricter parameters for defining a “substantiated” child abuse report, or the result of underreporting due to staff and budget cuts. It also may be because of effective prevention programs that haven’t received attention – yet. We’re simply not sure what’s going on.
- For Westchester’s students: We also see that less than half of Westchester’s children in the public school system are ready for college. That’s a frightening prospect, especially when you take into consideration…
- For Westchester’s young adults: They’re finding it difficult to get jobs, especially when you compare them to their older compatriots
But we shouldn’t lose hope…
…because if we’re alert we can change things… Data shows us opportunity and data provides evidence that effective policy can impact and save children’s lives.
For example, motor vehicle laws that place limitations on younger drivers have been accredited with saving lives in NY state. We can actually see the effect of the policy through the numbers – the decline in hospitalizations due to motor vehicle accidents.
In the end…
Who wouldn’t want to see more quantitative evidence like this that shows that we can positively impact the lives of Westchester’s children, and evidence that shows that we will do what it takes to make sure that they are healthy, safe and prepared for life’s challenges? Westchester prides itself on being the cradle of innovation, the cradle of creativity and commerce. Shouldn’t we in the county be able to address the challenges that face our children? The data tells us that we have to take care of our youngest. It tells us that there are opportunities for improvement. Most importantly, it tells us that we can make a difference, and we have a responsibility to do so.
Special thanks to Tara Framer and James Protano at Tara Framer Design. We would have not been able to pull this off without Tara’s guidance and quick mind and James’ ability to make numbers approchable.