Improving children’s lives, one data point at a time

A child’s chances for success depend on many people - community leaders, government leaders, elected officials, educators, businesses, faith organizations, neighbors, and families.

No matter how well-intentioned we may be, the decisions we make affecting our children’s futures are only as good as the data they are based on. Twenty five years ago, Rhode Island had no reliable, evidence-based source for that information.

That all changed in 1994 when the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Rhode Island Foundation brought Kids Count to Rhode Island. Their early factbooks tracked fewer than two dozen indicators of child well being. But policy makers, philanthropists and other stakeholders were hungry for the data. Kids Count became an independent nonprofit in 1997 and today they track over 72 key indicators that tell a deep story about how the children of Rhode Island are doing.

“Today, as we have done for the last 25 years, we take stock of where Rhode Island effectively supports our children’s development, and where we need to focus increased attention and efforts.”

- Elizabeth Burke Bryant, executive director, Rhode Island Kids Count

Kids Count tracks the well-being of Rhode Island’s 206,972 children. Data is tracked for the state and each of Rhode Island’s 39 cities and towns. Here’s a sample:

  • In 2017, 74% of Rhode Island’s children ages 19 months to 35 months were fully immunized, above the national average of 70% and 14th best in U.S.
  • In Rhode Island between 2013 and 2017, there were 965 emergency department visits and 649 hospitalizations of youth ages 13-19 due to suicide attempts.
  • In Rhode Island, the average age of school buildings is 56 years. The cost for updating schools in Rhode Island over the next five years is estimated to be $793.5 million.
  • Between 2013 and 2017, 64% of Rhode Island’s children living in poverty lived in four cities: Central Falls, Pawtucket, Providence, and Woonsocket.
  • Rhode Island ranks as the third best state in the U.S. for children with health insurance coverage. In 2017, 2.1% of Rhode Islanders under age 19 were uninsured.
Elizabeth Burke Bryant
Elizabeth Burke Bryant, who has led RI Kids Count since its inception 25 years ago, advocates at the State House for Rhode Island’s more than 206,000 children.

Through a series of data- and research-driven publications, frequent convenings of key influencers, and a commitment to consistent public leadership on policy issues that affect children, Kids Count has earned the distinction of being Rhode Island’s go-to information source for policymakers, advocates, and community members.

But this track record of reliability and commitment has made them something even more important in our community: the public conscience on issues affecting children in our state.

“By implementing well-informed, data-driven policies, we can improve the health, development and education outcomes for Rhode Island’s children.”

- Elizabeth Burke Bryant

And there have been important improvements. Lead poisoning has been reduced. The rate of children’s health insurance coverage has increased. The state has launched a high-quality Pre-K program. RI Kids Count has been at the forefront of important legislative wins, programs, and policies like these that prioritize Rhode Island children and families. These are the kind of complex long-term issues that could only be addressed with Kids Count and their massive 25 year “data well” for policy makers, philanthropists, and business leaders to draw on.

Kids Count recognizes that there is much more work to do. And the Rhode Island Foundation will continue to work toward positive outcomes that will guarantee opportunity and growth for all Rhode Island children.