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Report shows the state of Addison County’s children

WE HAVE A very active community of daycare and early education providers in Addison County, with more than three dozen caring providers educating and helping raise our young children.
Photo courtesy of Otter Creek Child Center

Each year, Building Bright Futures and Vermont’s Early Childhood Data and Policy Center release a report on the well-being of young children and families in Vermont. “The State of Vermont’s Children: 2022 Year in Review” includes data specific to Addison County as well as a wealth of information on the demographics, basic needs, health, well-being, development and education of Vermont’s young children. The report also includes the 2023 Policy Recommendations of the Vermont Early Childhood State Advisory Council Network.

The number of young children in Addison County has decreased in recent years, as has the percentage of children living in poverty. In 2021, there were 3,116 children under age 10 living in Addison County, down from 3,328 in 2016. In 2020 (the most recent year for which this data was available), 22.5% of Addison County’s children under 12 were living in poverty, a decrease from 35.3% in 2015. State-level data also show a decrease in the percent of Vermont families with children under 12 living below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), from 17% in 2015 to 13% in 2020. 

The reality, however, is that the federal poverty level is not an accurate measure of family economic well-being. Many Vermonters earning well above the FPL struggle to cover the cost of basic needs such as housing, transportation and healthcare. This was especially true in 2022. On average, Vermont households paid $603, or 11%, more per month for goods such as food, shelter, transportation and energy in total inflation costs in September 2022 compared to January 2021. As more and more pandemic-era assistance programs are rolled back or eliminated, the financial pressures on Addison County families are expected to continue to increase.

One area the report highlights is the increased need for children’s mental health services. Between 2018 and 2021, the rate of children ages 3 to 8 with behavioral or conduct problems, anxiety and/or depression in Vermont rose from 8.7% to 13.8%, while overall U.S. rates remained stable at 8%. In 2021, the number of Vermont children accessing routine mental health services reached its lowest level since 2012, while the number of children accessing crisis services increased. Access to routine mental health care can help decrease the need for crisis services.

The accessibility of routine care is exacerbated by the mental health workforce crisis. In October 2022, the vacancy rate was 18.1% at Vermont’s Designated Mental Health Agencies and Specialized Service Agencies, key providers of mental health services. In an ideal world, Vermont’s children would receive preventative mental health care before problems develop, but Medicaid and the Mental Health Block Grant, two critical federal resources, cannot be used for prevention and promotion of mental health activities. 

As we observe The Week of the Young Child, I encourage parents, educators and anyone else who is invested in the well-being of Vermont’s children to check out “The State of Vermont’s Children: 2022 Year in Review,” along with the many other early childhood resources at  buildingbrightfutures.org. If you’d like to learn more or to connect with the Addison County Building Bright Futures Regional Council, feel free to contact me at 802-377-0119 or [email protected].

Darla Senecal is the Building Bright Futures Regional Manager for Bennington, Rutland, and Addison Counties.

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