N.D. ranks seventh in children’s well-beingNorth Dakota’s teen death rate continues to rise as it drops nationwide, a national re-port on children’s well-being says. The state’s teen death rate jumped by 54 percent be-tween 2000 and 2005, compared with a 3 percent decrease nationwide during that same time, according to the 2008 Kids Count report, released on Thursday and funded by the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation.
By: By James MacPherson, The Associated Press, The Jamestown Sun
BISMARCK — North Dakota’s teen death rate continues to rise as it drops nationwide, a national re-port on children’s well-being says.
The state’s teen death rate jumped by 54 percent be-tween 2000 and 2005, compared with a 3 percent decrease nationwide during that same time, according to the 2008 Kids Count report, released on Thursday and funded by the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The study said 80 out of 100,000 teens died in North Dakota in 2005, up from 54 per 100,000 in 2000. The national rate is 65 deaths per 100,000 teens. The state ranked 35th in that category.
North Dakota’s small population makes its ranking volatile, said Richard Rathge, director of the North Dakota State Data Center and executive director of the North Dakota Kids Count program.
Still, Rathge said, “It’s troubling, and an indicator that we really need to look into.”
Accidents and vehicle crashes are the cause of most teen deaths, followed by suicides, Rathge said. “Most of these are preventable things,” he said.
Despite the increase in the teen death rate, the group ranked North Dakota seventh among all states for children’s well-being, up one spot from last year.
The Kids Count report measured 10 categories related to health, family and education from 2000 to 2005, and some from 2000 to 2006. North Dakota ranked among the top 10 in six of them.
North Dakota has been in the top 10 overall since the Kids Count study was first done in 1990, Rathge said.
The report found North Dakota’s high school dropout rate was the lowest in the nation at 3 percent, compared to 7 percent nationally. The state also received the best nationwide ranking in the number of teens who are not attending school or are not working, at 5 percent. The national rate was 8 percent.
The study said 169 out of 100,000 children between the ages of 10 and 15 were taken into custody in North Dakota in 2006, compared to the national rate of 125 per 100,000. The study said 75 percent of children in custody in North Dakota were there for nonviolent crimes, compared with the national rate of 66 percent.
Rathge said the state should reevaluate how it handles children convicted of nonviolent crimes.
“Those who commit violent crimes should be protected from society and society from them,” Rathge said. “But are we looking at the best way to handle those incarcerated for nonviolent crimes — remember these are children — and is it in the best interest of the child as well as society?
“Children are those we can influence and have a positive influence on,” Rathge said. “Putting them in an environment of incarceration — is that the best we can do?”
The study showed the percentage of the state’s children living in poverty dropped from 15 percent to 13 percent from 2000-2006, while the national average increased by 6 percent during the same period.
Rathge said he expects the number of children living in poverty now is lower than in 2006, the latest figures available. He said the North Dakota’s strong economy, spurred by activity in the oil patch, has helped move the state’s ranking in per capita income from 42nd to 30th in the past decade.