In the spring of 2012, the Office of Child Development, in partnership with United Way of Allegheny County, conducted a needs assessment of the state of children and youth living in Allegheny County. While numerous organizations impact tens of thousands of local children and young adults through investments and programming, there remain critical areas for greater impact. The following summary of the major risks and indicators faced by the county’s youngest populations provide insight into where resources continue to be needed and strengthened, and where there is opportunity for new investment.The big picture
1. There is a consistent achievement gap between Low Income Student Performance and Overall Student Performance in Allegheny County schools. In addition, strong evidence exists to show 3rd/4th grade reading is linked to high school graduation rates.
2. Young adults in the county face multiple risks, including experiencing poverty, being a victim or offender of violent crime and homicide, and being neither in school nor in the labor force.Indicators, pre-K through 5th grade
• Issue: Children do not have access to quality pre-kindergarten learning experiences. Over the past 10 years, the quality of early childhood education has improved statewide; Allegheny County is keeping pace with the statewide rate of moving programs into Star 3 and 4 quality ratings. At the same time, only 4% of children in the county under the age of five are enrolled in a Star 3 or 4 ECE program.
• Issue: Poor academic performance can be a result of being poor and chronically absent. Research demonstrates that poor children with chronic Kindergarten absenteeism have low 5th grade academic performance. Although there is good reason to believe that many local communities struggle with on-time kindergarten enrollment and regular attendance, Allegheny County currently has no central data collection and reporting system to track this important indicator.
• Issue: Children need quality out-of-school time programs. Many county children participate in out of school time programs, which support academic success. A quarter of Pittsburgh Public Schools students K-5th grades participate in afterschool programs.Indicators, 6th through 12th grade and young adults ages 18 - 24
• Issue: Youth are struggling to reach proficiency targets. Many county children participate in out of school time programs, including mentoring, which support academic success and career planning. One third of Pittsburgh Public Schools students 6th through 12th grades participate in afterschool programs, and over 24,000 youth in Allegheny County participate in a mentoring program.
• Issue: Idle youth negatively impact the economy of the region. There are more than 4,000 idle youth (ages 16-19) in Allegheny County.
• Issue: There are high rates of violence among young adults. 18-24 years olds account for 36% of homicide victims, and over 50% of all homicide offenders are younger than 25. Young black men have a homicide rate that is 60 times that of Pittsburgh and 50 times the national average.
• Issue: Young people are living in poverty and in need of supports. 27% of young adults (ages18-24) experience poverty.Emerging issues and the impact of state budget cuts
• Issue: Growing number of children are obese. About 15 – 17% of Allegheny County youth are obese. There is currently no good data reporting system to track this important emerging issue.
• Issue: Increasing number of homeless children. About half of all children experiencing homelessness are five and under. The number of families and children experiencing homelessness is increasing rapidly.
• Issue: Cuts in government funding will negatively impact children’s health and education. Recent state cuts and expected budget cuts affect access to pre-kindergarten programs, full-day Kindergarten, and health care coverage. Other supports may also be impacted.