Geographic Distribution of Children

There are large differences in the number of children living in Vermont regions. Over 50% of Vermont’s children are concentrated in the four regions with the largest population centers: Chittenden, Franklin, Washington, and Rutland [1]. The Chittenden region is home to 25% of children under 9.

Additional information, including age and regional breakdowns can be found in the regularly updated Population Estimates report.

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1. Vermont Department of Health (2019). Population of Vermont AHS/VDH District by Single Year of Age and Sex, 2017.

Living arrangements of children under 18

Almost two-thirds of Vermont’s children under age 18 live in two-parent households, and over a third have other living arrangements[1].

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1. Census: U.S. Census Bureau. (2018). Tables B09001: Population under 18 years by age; B09002: Own children under 18 years by family type and age; and B09018: Relationship to householder for children under 18 years in households. Vermont (2013-2017).  American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates.

Children in Protective Custody

When a child’s safety is threatened and that threat is substantiated, the child may be placed in the custody of the Department for Children and Families Family Services Division (DCF-FSD). Custody arrangements vary; the child may remain at home with supportive services, or be placed with a relative or foster family.

The point in time count of children in protective custody in 2019 was 659, with 246 under the age of 3 [1]. Point in time counts by region are available in the regional profile. These data are collected each year on September 30th.

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1. Department for Children and Families, Family Services Division (2019). Data provided by the Division Quality Assurance Supervisor.

Homeless children

Factors contributing to family homelessness include a lack of affordable housing and the cost of living in Vermont. The number of children under the age of 18 in publicly-funded homeless shelters decreased in 2019 to 888 after an increase to 1,019 in 2017. According to the Office of Economic Opportunity, this may be attributed in part due to decreased capacity in emergency shelters for families [1].

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1. Department for Children and Families, Office of Economic Opportunity (2019). Housing Opportunity Grant Program (HOP) Annual Report – State Fiscal Year 2019.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

Prolonged, severe or repetitive adversity may lead to toxic stress which is detrimental to a child’s development if not buffered by nurturing and supportive relationships with caregivers. While Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are currently one of the most aligned indicators used to measure exposure to toxic stress and childhood adversity, the data do not tell the whole story, especially in young children. Data on ‘flourishing children’ is often paired with the ACEs indicator data as a proxy measure for resilience. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),

Adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood (0-17 years). Also included are aspects of the child’s environment that can undermine their sense of safety, stability, and bonding. ACEs are linked to chronic health problems, mental illness, and substance misuse in adulthood. ACEs can also negatively impact education and job opportunities. ACEs are preventable. Creating and sustaining safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for all children and families can prevent ACEs and help all children reach their full potential [1].

In Vermont, children are exposed to ACEs at a similar rate to children nationally with more than one third of children under 9 experiencing at least one adverse childhood experience [2]. The four most common ACEs in Vermont are living in a home where it is hard to cover basic needs, experiencing the divorce of a parent or guardian, living with someone with substance use disorder, and living with someone who has a severe mental health challenge [3].

Additional information on Vermont’s approach to trauma prevention and resilience development is available on the Trauma Prevention and Resilience Development website.

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1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2019). Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences.

2. The United States Census Bureau, National Survey of Children’s Health. 2016, 2017, 2018. Indicator 6.13 and variable K11Q43R in the public data file.
Analyses of the 2016-2018 NSCH multi-year weighted data was conducted by Laurin Kasehagen, MA, PhD, an epidemiology assignee to the Vermont Department of Health.

3. ibid

Flourishing Children

Strong, supportive communities and healthy social and family relationships can tip the scale in favor of healthy development, which can build resilience to overcome toxic stress. One outcome measure that begins to show our collective impact in this area is whether children are flourishing. The National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) measures this by asking parents about behavior characteristics depending on the age of the child.

56% of Vermont’s children 6 months to 5 years old meet all 4 characteristics (items) of flourishing [1].

20% of children between the ages of 6 and 8 meet all 3 characteristics (items) of flourishing [2].

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1. The United States Census Bureau (2019). National Survey of Children’s Health. 2016, 2017, 2018. Indicator 2.3
Analyses of the 2016-2018 NSCH multi-year weighted data was conducted by Laurin Kasehagen, MA, PhD, an epidemiology assignee to the Vermont Department of Health.

2. ibid

Program Quality (STARS)

High quality early care and learning programs go beyond the required regulations to provide the best environment for child development. STARS, which stands for STep Ahead Recognition System, is Vermont’s quality recognition and improvement system for early care and learning programs. While the total number of regulated child care programs in Vermont is declining, the quality of programs is improving. It is important to note that the number of programs is not a measure of child care capacity. As can be seen below, the percent of programs achieving 4 or 5 stars has increased from 20% in 2011 to 46% in 2019 [1].

Additional information, including breakdowns by geography and license type, can be found in the regularly updated STep Ahead Recognition System (STARS) monthly report and in the Stalled at the Start reports from Let’s Grow Kids.

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1. Vermont Insights (2019). STep Ahead Recognition System (STARS) monthly report.

Type of Care

Two-thirds of families with children under 3 and 79% of families with children 3 to 5 use regular, non-parental child care [1]. Additional information on key insights into the early care and learning practices, needs and perceptions of Vermont households with children under age six years can be found in the Early Care and Learning Household Survey brief.

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1. NORC at the University of Chicago (2019). Young Children’s Early Care and Learning in Vermont.

Public PreK Enrollment

In 2014, Vermont passed Act 166, also known as the Universal Pre-Kindergarten Law, which offers all 3- and 4-year olds, and 5 year-olds not yet enrolled in kindergarten, up to 10 hours a week of publicly-funded pre-kindergarten for up to 35 weeks per year. Since 2014, the number of children enrolled in public pre-K has increased by more than 2,000 [1].

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1. Vermont Agency of Education (2019). Student Enrollment, school years 2012/2013-2018/2019.

Ready for Kindergarten

The Agency of Education’s Ready for Kindergarten! Survey is an assessment of a child’s readiness for school used throughout Vermont each fall. Teachers assess students in five key areas: Physical Development and Health, Social and Emotional Development, Approaches to Learning, Communication, and Cognitive Development. The data help schools and early childhood partners assess student strengths and challenges.

The percent of children ready for kindergarten has remained relatively stable since 2015. As can be seen in Table 2, 74% of children who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch are considered ready for kindergarten, compared to 89% of students who are not eligible [1]. Third grade assessments are often paired with kindergarten readiness data.

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1. Vermont Agency of Education (2019). Ready for kindergarten! survey (R4K!S), 2018-2019: Report to Supervisory Unions/Supervisory Districts.

Third Grade Reading and Math Proficiency

At the end of third grade, Vermont students are assessed on their proficiency in reading and math. These scores can help us understand how we best support young children across the continuum from birth to age 8.

Proficiency rates vary significantly based on race, economic status, and other factors, as can be seen in Figure 12. Of all students assessed, 50% are proficient in reading and 52% are proficient in math. For students eligible for free or reduced lunch, proficiency rates are 35% and 38% respectively [1].

Additional information including breakdowns by additional characteristics, district, and school, can be found in the Vermont Agency of Education Smarter Balanced 2018 State, District, and School-Level Assessment Data.

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1. Vermont Agency of Education (2019). Smarter Balanced 2018 State, District and School-level Assessment Data.

Children Living in Poverty

The Federal Poverty Level is a guideline used to determine eligibility for programs and services. In 2018, the poverty level for a family of four was $25,100. Since 2012, Vermont’s families with young children have seen a reduction in poverty, but some types of families continue to experience higher rates of poverty. Single mothers with children under 5 experience poverty at three times the rate of other families [1].

Additional information, including age and regional breakdowns can be found in the regularly updated report on Children by age group living in households with incomes at or below 100% of the Federal Poverty Level.

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1. U.S. Census Bureau. (2018). Table DP03: Selected economic characteristics (Vermont), 2017. American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates.

Basic Needs Budget

The federal poverty level is a guideline for program eligibility across the country. It is not necessarily an indicator for family economic well-being. The cost of basic needs such as housing, transportation and health care are an ongoing issue for Vermonters. Every two years the Joint Fiscal Office puts out a Basic Needs Budget, detailing the earnings necessary to live in Vermont. The 2018 Basic Needs Budget calculates that a two-adult two-child household with both adults working would need to make $84,736, (or $20.37 per hour per wage earner in 2018) to meet their household needs. This is almost double the income of two adults making minimum wage ($10.78 in Vermont) [1].

The full Basic Needs Budget report is available from the Vermont Legislative Joint Fiscal Office.

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1. Vermont Legislative Joint Fiscal Office. (2019). Basic Needs Budgets and the Livable Wage p. 16.

Households spending 30% or more of income on housing

The cost and availability of housing is a significant challenge forVermont families. Half of households report paying more than 30% of their income toward rent [1], a common metric of affordability. Stable housing is one key support to provide children with a positive environment to learn and grow.

The average Vermont renter makes $13.40 an hour and can afford to spend about $700 per month on rent, but the average two bedroom apartment costs $1,184 per month [2].

Additional information, including regional breakdowns can be found in the regularly updated reports for Renters in Vermont paying 30% or more of income on rent and Homeowners in Vermont with mortgages costing 30% or more of income.

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1. U.S. Census Bureau. (2018). Table S0201: Selected population in the United States (Vermont), 2017. American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates.

2. National Low Income Housing Coalition. Out of Reach 2019: Vermont

Child Care Financial Assistance Program (CCFAP) Changes

The Child Care Financial Assistance Program (CCFAP) makes payments directly to child care providers on behalf of families using the program. The amount is based on the size and income level of the family, the age of the child or children in care, the type of child care program, the program’s quality designation, and the number of hours that care is needed. Families may pay a co-payment directly to the provider to make up the difference between the amount of the CCFAP and the actual cost of care.

In 2019, the Vermont legislature passed a bill increasing funding of and eligibility for the CCFAP. The changes mean that more families are eligible for assistance and the benefits for families have increased. The new law better aligns rates of reimbursement with the market rates for child care, so that parents’ co-pays are reduced [1,2]. The average family of four pays one fifth of their income for child care [3]. The state’s investments in the CCFAP are aimed at making child care more affordable.

An example of the impact of these changes to the CCFAP is below. For a family of 4 at 200% of the Federal Poverty Level, the co-payment for families (in green) decreases by $171 per month.

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1. Department for Children and Families, Child Development Division (2019). FY19 data provided by the Child Development Division Data and Outreach Coordinator.

2. Department for Children and Families, Child Development Division (2019). Child Care Financial Assistance Sliding Fee Scale.

3. Vermont Joint Fiscal Office. (2019). Basic Needs Budget (pg. 13).

Health Care

Vermont children have some of the highest rates of health insurance in the US, with 97% of children under 18 having some type of health insurance [1]. Nearly 80% of families report that insurance for their children is adequate, with reasonable out-of-pocket costs, benefits that meet their children’s needs, and the ability to seek medical care when necessary [2].

Vermont families are regularly going to their pediatrician or family doctor for their young children, which supports their overall healthy development. 91% of children under 6 have seen a doctor during the last year [3]. These visits include well child visits, which are a priority in Vermont. A well child visit is a routine healthcare visit held when the child is healthy, which allows the provider and parent to focus on a child’s wellness and development, preventing future health problems. It also provides the opportunity for the family to learn about what to expect as their child grows and develops.

Additional information about how Vermont addresses the health of children and families can be found in the State Health Improvement Plan and in the Division of Maternal and Child Health’s Strategic Plan.

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1. The United States Census Bureau, National Survey of Children’s Health. 2016, 2017, 2018 National Survey of Children’s Health. September 2019. Indicator 3.1
Analyses of the 2016-2018 NSCH multi-year weighted data was conducted by Laurin Kasehagen, MA, PhD, an epidemiology assignee to the Vermont Department of Health.

2. Op.cit Indicator 3.4a

3. Op.cit Indicator 4.1

Dental Care

Vermont children ages 3 to 8 regularly see the dentist for preventive care [1]. Vermont also recognizes the importance of oral health within the first two years of life and has initiated efforts to increase preventive dental care visits for children under the age of 3.

Additional information about how Vermont addresses the health of children and families can be found in the State Health Improvement Plan and in the Division of Maternal and Child Health’s Strategic Plan.

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1. The United States Census Bureau (2019). National Survey of Children’s Health. 2016, 2017, 2018. Indicator 4.2a
Analyses of the 2016-2018 NSCH multi-year weighted data was conducted by Laurin Kasehagen, MA, PhD, an epidemiology assignee to the Vermont Department of Health.

Developmental Screening

The way a child plays, learns, speaks, acts, and moves offers important clues about their development. Developmental screenings are a tool to engage families in healthy child development as well as identify successes and concerns, and serves as a proxy for the child’s social contributors of health. Identifying concerns early and connecting families with concrete supports like early intervention provide children the greatest opportunity to overcome any delays. 61% of Vermont’s children received a developmental screening in 2017 [1].

Additional information about how Vermont addresses the health of children and families can be found in the State Health Improvement Plan and in the Division of Maternal and Child Health’s Strategic Plan.

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1. Department of Vermont Health Access, Vermont Blueprint for Health (2018). Community Health Profiles.

Breastfeeding

Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of an infant’s life has significant health benefits for both mother and child. Breastfeeding helps prevent obesity and diabetes in children, and puts mothers at lower risk for breast and ovarian cancer, diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. While Vermont has high rates of initiation (89.3% in 2015), breastfeeding is sustained at a much lower rate (38.0%) [1]. Disparities in breastfeeding persist by education, marital status, age, and WIC participation. Vermont continues to work to reduce barriers to breastfeeding and support the needs of all parents to engage in behaviors that work toward the optimal health, development, and well-being of their children.

Additional information about these efforts can be found in the Breastfeeding Strategic Plan, the State Health Improvement Plan and in the Division of Maternal and Child Health’s Strategic Plan.

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1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2018). Breastfeeding Report Card.

Alcohol Use During Pregnancy

In 2017 in Vermont, 14.6% of women used alcohol during the last three months of pregnancy, compared with 8.2% across all participating sites [1]. Data are collected in 47 states for the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS). 18 states currently report data for this indicator. Breakdowns by age, race, and education as well as key points and takeaways from the Vermont Department of Health is in the PRAMS 2016-2017 Alcohol Use and Pregnancy Brief.

Additional information about how Vermont addresses the health of children and families can be found in the State Health Improvement Plan and in the Division of Maternal and Child Health’s Strategic Plan.

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1. Vermont Department of Health (2019). Vermont Vital Statistics & Vermont Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System – 2017.