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Carroll County named fifth-best in U.S. at protecting and providing for kids: ‘Our children are our priority’

Meals are loaded onto a school bus outside Northwest Middle School in Taneytown Thursday, April 16, 2020. The school system has been sending out meals along bus routes to serve families with children in outlying areas.
Meals are loaded onto a school bus outside Northwest Middle School in Taneytown Thursday, April 16, 2020. The school system has been sending out meals along bus routes to serve families with children in outlying areas. (Dylan Slagle/Carroll County Times)

An international organization that advocates for children’s welfare and equity has found that Carroll County is one of the places in the U.S. where children are most protected from circumstances that cut short their childhood experience.

Carroll County was ranked the fifth-best U.S. county at protecting and providing for its children, according to the 2020 US Childhood Report published by Save the Children. The report focused on inequities in the U.S. and evaluated factors such as childhood hunger, teenage pregnancy, graduation from high school and death in childhood.

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This is the first time the organization has evaluated U.S. counties. More than 2,600 counties and county equivalents provided enough data to be evaluated.

According to the report, 6.1% of children in Carroll live in poverty, there are 27.1 deaths out of every 100,000 children and 13.4% lack adequate access to food. The percentage of high-schoolers who do not graduate within four years is 2.5%. And out of 1,000 female teenagers ages 15-19, statistically 5.5 give birth, the report found.

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The data for the report was collected before the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the U.S. But the report also includes a “COVID-19 vulnerability score” based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Social Vulnerability Index. This studies the “resilience of communities when confronted by external stresses on human health, stresses such as natural or human-caused disasters, or disease outbreaks.” The most recent data available from the agency is from 2016.

The report gave Carroll County a COVID-19 vulnerability score of 0.04, out of 1.00, according to the report. Lower scores mean higher resilience.

Carroll ranked first of all counties and county equivalents in Maryland. As a state, Maryland ranks No. 10 in the nation. However, the equity gap between the top-ranking jurisdiction, Carroll, and the lowest, Baltimore City, is classified as “Large.”

According to the report, children in Baltimore are 5.5 times more likely than children in Carroll to have their childhoods cut short, through death, undernourishment, teenage pregnancy or dropping out of school. Baltimore ranked No. 2,432 of the 2,617 counties evaluated in the report.

According to a news release from Save the Children, “the most disadvantaged counties are mostly comprised of communities of color, and nearly all are rural, poor, and concentrated in the South.”

Calvert and Queen Anne’s counties also made it into the top 50 U.S. counties, ranked numbers 46 and 47, respectively.

Cindy Marucci-Bosley, director of the Bureau of Community Health Nursing at the Carroll County Health Department, has 37 years of experience in areas including teenage pregnancy and infant and child mortality. She said Monday that in public health, it’s never possible to tell exactly what makes the difference.

But in Carroll, she said, there is a priority on children’s welfare and good collaborations between the county, Carroll Hospital, local nonprofits, Carroll County Public Schools and the Department of Social Services.

“Everybody is always at the table to discuss whatever issue there may be or what we can do to make things better,” she said.

Members of Carroll’s Board of County Commissioners were pleased to hear about the report, and several cited local collaboration between child-focused organizations and families.

Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, said, “Kids have always been a priority in the county,” cited several programs and services in the county that provide opportunities for children and help when they need it.

As examples, he noted the counseling provided by the Youth Service Bureau, the work of nonprofits such as the Boys and Girls Club, The Gateway School for providing alternatives for high-schoolers to graduate, and organizations that go directly into schools to let students know what resources are available, such as Rape Crisis Intervention Service.

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Commissioner Eric Bouchat, R-District 4, said that love and family are the “bedrock of community” and praised the partnerships between the county and the private sector in areas such as recreation and parks.

“We have a lot to be proud of as a community,” he said.

Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, said, “I do think that the county prioritizes families,” and that the report seemed to be evidence that the focus on programs for kids is paying off and that there are great people in the community.

Commissioner Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, said the results of the report are a testament to the communication and cooperation between CCPS, the county government, Citizen Services, local nonprofits and the community.

To keep providing for students during the summer, CCPS will be distributing them for free to children younger than 18 in need on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 12 different locations.

“In order for us to have success ... it’s not one or the other, but all of us coming together,” Rothstein said. “Our children are our priority.”

Save the Children wrote in its report, “Where a child grows up can determine their prospects in life more than you might guess. In most states across America, there are stark differences between communities that provide children the childhoods they deserve, and those where childhoods end too soon.”

To view the interactive report, visit SavetheChildren.org/Childhood.

Times reporter Mary Grace Keller contributed to this article.

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