RI Kids Count Fact Book Highlights Problems And Progress

Apr 9, 2018

Fewer children in Rhode Island are living in poverty but more face longer wait times for in-patient psychiatric care, according to the Rhode Island Kids Count 2018 Factbook released Monday.

Those are among the findings in the latest annual report by the Providence-based nonprofit. The Factbook offers the most comprehensive statewide look at the wellbeing of children and teenagers.

More than 460 children and teens waited on the medical floors of Hasbro Children’s Hospital to be admitted for inpatient psychiatric care in 2017, more than twice as many as in 2016, according to the report.  And the average wait times rose to four days, up from three days in 2016.  

And more children in 2017 had to wait to leave a psychiatric hospital, the report said, because there was no safe place for them to go to continue their recovery.

“We need to continue our effort in the state to increase access to appropriate mental health services for children and youth,’’ Elizabeth Burke Bryant, executive director of Rhode Island Kids Count, said.

Another worrisome finding: investigations of child abuse and neglect rose 16 percent in 2017, child welfare caseloads increased more than 6 percent.

The increase follows the expansion of the agency’s reporting to include all children who die or suffer near-fatal injuries as a result of abuse and/or neglect.  Prior to 2016, the state Department of Children, Youth and Families only reported child fatalities and near-fatalities involving cases under the agency’s care and/or supervision.

“While it is concerning to see to see these caseloads increase and the number of maltreatment reports increase,’’ Burke Bryant said, “on the flip side, I think it’s good news when there is a concern about a possible case of child abuse and neglect that it is getting the attention it needs by having a greater number of investigations.”

The report also highlighted some improvements, including the decline in number of children with high lead levels, and the increase in enrollment in pre-Kindergarten and Head Start.  

Some Highlights:

·        About 17 percent of children in Rhode Island are living in poverty, down from 21 percent in 2013.

·        The rate of child abuse and neglect in 2017 was 14.6 per 1,000 children, up from a rate of 12.3 per 1,000 children in 2016.

·        The rate of babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome due to exposure to opioids declined -- to 89.5 per 10,000 births in 2016 compared with 103.8 per 10,000 births in 2015 -- though it remains more than double the rate in 2006.