A recent report issued by the Center for Public Policy Priorities presents mixed results where the state of Texas is concerned.

“The State of Texas Children 2007” compiles data relating to a variety of categories, from prenatal care and infant mortality to unemployment and health insurance. The Austin-based nonprofit organization’s report provides a comprehensive look across the state with breakout data for each of its 254 counties. Much of the data is from 2005, the most current year available to the center in putting the report together.

“The report finds that when it comes to maternal and infant health, Texas has much to be thankful for,” said Frances Deviney, the center’s director of Texas Kids Count. “At the same time, work remains in other areas.”

For the fifth straight year, Texas has seen its child poverty rate increase, Deviney said, noting also that the state “continues to have the highest rates of uninsured children in the nation.”

The state’s increase in its child poverty rate was reflected in Ellis County, where 5,473 children or 14.9 percent of all children live in poverty, according to the report, which notes that 580 of those children receive TANF and 383 receive SSI assistance.

Overall, 10.6 percent of the county’s total population lived in poverty as of 2004, the latest figures available to the center, reflecting an increase from the 2000 poverty rate of 9.4 percent.

The report indicates a 2005 population for Ellis County of 133,010 (including 37,879 children), an increase from the 2000 population of 111,360.

Figures gathered by the center indicate the unemployment rate continues to increase in Texas, an increase also seen in Ellis County, which ranked 156th in unemployment, with 5 percent of its population unemployed in 2006, as compared to 3.6 percent in 2000.

There were positives for the state, according to the report, including a decrease in the number of teen births for ages 13-19 although the state still posts the highest rate in the nation. Statewide, Texas reported 52,363 teen births or a rate of 13.37 percent, which is a decrease from the 2000 rate of 15.3 percent.

That decrease also was seen in Ellis County.

“In Ellis County, the rate of babies born to teens declined by 11 percent since 2000,” according to the report. “As of 2004, 306 babies were born to Ellis County teens, ranking Ellis County 83rd of the 254 counties.”

Of the county’s teen births, 239 were to unwed mothers, according to the report, which drew from 2004 figures in compiling its report.

The report also looked at prenatal care, noting the “proportion of women receiving little or no prenatal care decreased by 33 percent since 2002” in Ellis County.

“As of 2004, 488 babies or 24.4 percent of all births were born to women who received little or no prenatal care,” according to the report, which ranks Ellis County 148th out of the state’s 254 counties.

As a statewide average, about one in four babies are born to mothers who receive little to no prenatal care.

In looking at nutrition, the report found increases in the number of Ellis County children who receive food stamps, are enrolled in WIC or are receiving free or reduced-price lunches at school. The number of children enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP also increased in the county.

Ellis County saw an increase in the number of children enrolled in state-subsidized childcare and public pre-kindergarten, but a decrease in the number enrolled in Head Start.

As of 2007, Ellis County had 29,464 enrolled across its public school districts, which overall saw increases in TAKS passing rates for all age categories except fourth-grade reading/English language arts and ninth-grade math, both of which reported even results as compared to 2003 data.

As part of its report, the center has suggested several policy solutions to correct the negatives it has identified.

Those solutions include increasing outreach about the state’s new perinatal program, which the center said is expected to provide health coverage to 35,000 low-income women through CHIP.

The center also suggests developing a work support system that enables working families to meet their basic needs.

This would “ensure that families remain eligible for public assitance until they earn enough to meet their basic needs,” the center’s report reads. “Poverty is one of the biggest predictors of infant mortality and other health and societal ills.”

The center supports making higher education “more accessible and affordable for Texans” as well as an expansion in job training and career development opportunities for working adults.

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