BAKERSFIELD, CA - The Kern County Network for Children is set to release this year's report card next week. It serves as a barometer of how we are doing when it comes to our county's kids, in several areas including abuse.
Three-year-old Trinity Hanna was abused and killed last year in Kern county. She is one of five children who died as a result of abuse or neglect last year, according to the Network's latest child report card.
"Our goal is to keep kids safe, but to keep kids with their families," said Tom Corson, Executive Director of the Kern County Network for Children.
The annual report also shows substantiated cases of abuse and neglect were down for the fourth straight year. Last year, there were 4,372 cases, or twelve a day. This year, there were 4,073 cases, or eleven a day. That's a five percent decrease, outpacing other counties in the state in improvement.
"90 percent of the substantiated child abuse cases in this county are due to neglect. And, that neglect sometimes is a direct result of families not having the means to take care of their little ones," said Corson.
The care he's talking about are things like feeding, clothing, and housing. They are things linked to money, and that's where Kern County didn't score well this year. The report shows the median annual income of families continues to drop and 29 percent of county families with kids, live below the poverty line.
"It's like we have a wall of issues and we are looking for the little chinks in the wall that we might be able to make some kind of difference," said Jill Egland, Vice President of Community Impact for the United Way of Kern County.
Egland says the United Way of Kern County has been looking for ways to improve the county's grade for years. They recently became part of Kern Cares, created in 2010 by the Kern Network for Children, offering needed and new resources every month, online and on Facebook.
"We're finding that's a way to get information out to people that traditionally wouldn't be interested in our world," said Corson.
Non-profits and several churches have joined in the effort too, collecting items and offering a personal approach to a difficult situation.
"Sometimes it's giving them something and that's the end of it because they don't really want a conversation. And, we understand, but sometimes it is the conversations that we just have with people. They are real people. They are not any different than we are. They don't deserve anything more or less than we do," said Carrie Kunzmann with Kern Cares.
"Ultimately, as overwhelming as it is we have the solutions. They are our problems. The solutions are ours too," said Egland.
The report also shows the number of people needing food assistance in the county is up 91 percent from five years ago. However, teen pregnancy was down nine percent from last year.