October 26, 2016
by Bill Knowles
HUERFANO/LAS ANIMAS — New data released by Kids Count Colorado show both good and bad news. One of the good things is the news that both Huerfano County and Las Animas County exceeded the state in high school graduation rates. The Kids Count data was compiled from the years 2014 and 2015.
Huerfano County shows that 92.1% of students in high school graduated, as compared to 77.3% statewide. Las Animas County posted a 79.6% graduation rate. It was noted in a meeting held in Trinidad on Friday, Oct. 21, that La Veta High School posted a 100 percent graduation rate.
Poverty is a big driver causing children to underachieve or fail at school, which than feeds into increased joblessness or low wage work for those without the education. It is an area that the state’s human services offices strive to improve.
Median household income for Huerfano County is $32,750. When compared to the state’s median household income of $61,324, Huerfano County’s median household income is 53% of the state’s numbers. Las Animas County, posting a median household income of $39,625, is 65% of the state’s median household income.
These differences are reflected in the programs that Human Services offers to help offset the lower incomes found in the Raton Basin region of southern Colorado. The number of people receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and participating the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program in both counties is higher than state averages. Huerfano County sees 20.8 percent of its children receiving TANF, compared to 4.7% statewide. The WIC program has an enrollment rate of 62.9% compared to 31.8% statewide.
In Las Animas County about 15.3% of its families are receiving TANF, and 52.6% are on WIC, lower than Huerfano but still above state averages.
Health is also an issue tied to low incomes. The largest healthcare insurer for children zero to 18-years is the Medicaid system, with 66.5%enrolled in the program in Las Animas County. In Huerfano County, 84.4% of children are enrolled. This is more than double the number of children enrolled in Medicaid statewide, 41.6%.
For Huerfano County, this still leaves about 13.7 percent of the children uninsured. The number of uninsured children in Las Animas County is lower, at 11.4%.
Good health and a good diet are necessary for kids to perform well in school. Other factors, such as a stable home-life and a healthy environment, are also necessary. The number of children in Las Animas County experiencing child abuse and neglect is 15.8%, almost double the state numbers of 7.8%. However Huerfano County is experiencing a sevenfold increase in abuse. The child abuse and neglect numbers are a per one thousand with Huerfano County posting 54.6% or 546 cases per 1,000 persons. With a population of 1,042 children under 18, over half are subject to some form of abuse or neglect in the home.