The number of low-income Connecticut children receiving dental sealants, a treatment to prevent tooth decay, has grown in recent years and the state’s participation rate outpaces the nation. In 2016, 44,497 (19.6 percent) of the 226,111 children ages 5 to 16 enrolled in the Connecticut Dental Health Partnership had sealants placed on molars, up 9 percent from 2011, according to the state Department of Social Services. Nationally, in the 2015 fiscal year, 14.9 percent of eligible children – 2.7 million out of more than 17 million – received sealants, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. State officials and dental providers make a concerted effort to educate families about the importance of sealants, said Donna Balaski, director of dental services at DSS. “Sealants are shown to be an effective treatment for preventing disease,” she said, and is part of a broader DSS strategy to teach families about overall dental health.
On the surface, it looks as if Connecticut children fare pretty well. According to the annual Kids Count report from The Annie E. Casey Foundation, the state ranks fourth in education, third in health, and sixth in overall well-being for children. The foundation pointed to nearly universal health insurance—97 percent—for Connecticut’s children as a major contributor to the state’s high ranking. Of all the states, Connecticut also had the lowest rate of deaths among children ages 1 to 19: 15 deaths per 100,000 children. But that’s not the entire story, not by half.
The rate of infants dying suddenly and unexpectedly has dropped in recent years, but data show that racial disparities persist. Babies born to American Indian and Alaska Natives and African American families suffer much higher rates of sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUID) than other races and ethnicities, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show. Between 2011 and 2014, 194.1 American Indian and Alaska Native infants and 170.2 African American infants per 100,000 live births died from SUID nationwide. Those rates are significantly higher compared with 83.8 for whites, 51.1 for Hispanics and 32.1 for Asian or Pacific Islander babies per 100,000 live births, during the same time period. SUID encompasses sudden infant death syndrome, commonly known as SIDS, as well accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed, and other unspecified causes of death in children up to a year old.
A task force created by state lawmakers will examine whether the Department of Children and Families (DCF) should be prohibited from requiring that parents give up custody of their children in order to access mental health and other services, under legislation signed by the governor. The newly formed panel, which is charged with reporting its recommendations by Feb. 1, 2018, will study whether state statutes should be amended to prohibit DCF from requiring or requesting that a parent or guardian of a youth admitted to DCF on a voluntary basis terminate his or parental rights or transfer custody in order to obtain services. The task force also will study ways of increasing families’ access to voluntary services without making parents relinquish custody of their children. The legislation creating the task force was prompted by recent stories by C-HIT that detailed a practice known as ‘trading custody for care,’ in which parents who cannot meet their children’s severe behavioral health needs in a home setting are subject to “uncared for” petitions that turn their children over to DCF custody.
It’s not easy being poor, and being a poor child is particularly difficult, especially if you live in a state in the middle of a budgetary crisis, like Connecticut. And that’s rough, given that more U.S. girls live in poverty now than in 2007, pre-Great Recession, according to The State of Girls 2017: Emerging Truth and Troubling Trends, a recent study from the Girl Scout Research Institute. Using data from the Census Bureau, National Center for Health Statistics, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Bureau of Justice Statistics, and the National Center for Education Statistics, the report paints a scary picture of the economics of being a girl in the U.S. (Other research topics from the institute, founded in 2000 as an arm of the venerable girls’ organization, include the impact of reality television on girls, and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs and girls.)
From the report:
• A total of 41 percent of American girls live in low-income households, compared to 38 percent in 2007. Low-income means that a family earns less than twice the federal poverty level, which in 2016 was $24,300 for a family of four. • More than half of African-American, Hispanic/Latina, and American Indian girls are considered low-income in the U.S.
• Connecticut has one of the country’s lowest girls’ poverty rates, at 13 percent.
Observing the brain activity of preschool children with autism can help predict their response to treatment for the disorder, according to a study by Yale University researchers. The finding is groundbreaking because it can help match children with a treatment that will work for them, said Pamela Ventola, senior author of a study published today in the journal Translational Psychiatry. “We hope that we can use this information to better develop treatments for autism and better match kids with autism to a treatment that’s going to work for them,” said Ventola, an assistant professor at the Yale Child Study Center. In the study, researchers worked with 20 autistic preschoolers for 16 weeks, for seven hours each week. During sessions, children underwent pivotal response treatment, a well-established behavioral treatment for autism that dates to the 1970s and is play-based.
A new report that identifies the most distinctive cause of injury death for each state, compared to national rates, has some findings that might be expected:
Seven states in Appalachia and the Southwest, for example, had unintentional firearms deaths roughly two to four times the national rate. Those states have high gun ownership rates and lack safe-storage laws. Three states – Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska – had as their most distinctive injury motor vehicle crashes involving passengers. Four safety provisions – primary seatbelt laws, mandatory key ignition locks for drunk drivers, booster seats, and nighttime driving restrictions for teens – are absent in Montana, while South Dakota and Nebraska have only one each. Connecticut had as its most distinctive cause of injury death “unintentional suffocation” – the only state with that outlier cause.
Nearly 40 percent of all black kindergartners are overweight or obese, and nearly 40 percent of all Hispanic kindergartners in Connecticut are, too. A new policy brief by the Child Health and Development Institute says the best way to fight numbers like these is to “require action in a child’s earliest years — from birth to 2.” The numbers also indicate that 25 percent of all white kindergartners are overweight or obese also. “The numbers are staggering, and the health implications are so big,” said Judith Meyers, president and CEO of the Farmington-based CHDI, whose brief is based, in part, on research by UConn’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity. “Connecticut’s rates [of childhood obesity] are among the highest in the country,” she said.
On any day, thousands of Connecticut children need to be given medication while in child care centers, but many providers don’t know how to properly administer the medications, studies show. To change that equation, the Yale School of Nursing developed a curriculum and has trained 75 nurse consultants to teach child care providers on how to correctly give medication to children in their daily care. Child care providers at more than 200 sites have been trained statewide. “We have made some steady progress on this,” said Angela Crowley, a leader in crafting the curriculum and a professor and coordinator in the pediatric nurse practitioner specialty at Yale School of Nursing. “It is really exciting because we did something really innovative.”
State law requires providers who need to administer medication be trained in how to do so, but there is no uniform training method used by all providers, Crowley said.
Connecticut has made strides in identifying and helping children who have experienced trauma – with more than 50,000 undergoing trauma screenings since 2007 – but more must be done to ensure all children’s needs are met, according to a report released today. Those who work with at-risk youths have placed a growing emphasis on providing trauma-based care, with some encouraging results, according to the Child Health and Development Institute’s (CHDI) Impact report titled “Advancing Trauma-Informed Systems for Children.”
Giving trauma-informed care means professionals – such as child welfare workers, behavioral health specialists, those in the juvenile justice system and pediatricians – are knowledgeable about childhood trauma, its warning signs and its repercussions. While many children in general are exposed to at least one traumatic event, trauma disproportionately impacts the lives of children involved with services such as juvenile justice and child welfare, according to CHDI. Thanks to efforts statewide since 2007, according to the CHDI report:
• More than 8,600 professionals have been trained to understand childhood trauma. • At least 35 community agencies or programs at 79 sites have implemented trauma screening.