The number of children living in the Virgin Islands (17,086) is less than half what it was 20 years ago (34,289), according to the latest edition of Kids Count, which is focused on improving information about and providing services to that segment of the community.
Roughly 20 percent of the total population is aged 18 or younger.
An annual compilation of local statistics, Kids Count has been a data resource in the territory since 2000. It is sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which began partnering on the project with the St. Croix Community Foundation three years ago. Previously it worked with the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands.
This year, the report focuses especially on adolescents, although it contains wide-ranging statistics on children of all ages as well as families and adults in the areas of housing, economics, education, health, and labor.
The St. Croix Community Foundation released the 2022 report Wednesday via a video presentation.
The information in it can help determine and address the needs of children and youth in the territory, according to Deanna James, president of the St. Croix Community Foundation. “We encourage the community to use the data,” she said.
Sources for the statistics are varied and include both national surveys such as the U.S. Census and local government agencies, institutions and non-profit organizations.
Saul Santiago, the principal investigator for the project, said the foundation worked under a Memorandum of Understanding across local government departments and agencies to gather statistics in a cooperative effort. If an agency didn’t have a particular set of data, he said, “We looked for signals elsewhere,” including non-profit organizations.
For the first time, the report includes medical-related data not only from the Department of Health but also from the territory’s Federal Qualified Health Care Centers, the St. Thomas East End Medical Center Corporation and Frederiksted Health Care.
Another first in the report: a map of programs and resources offered for young people. “Having opportunities is great,” said Althea Frazier Raynor, the foundation’s coordinator for outreach and engagement. “But having access to those opportunities is really, really important.”
“There are some critical hot spots” identified in the report, James said in a separate interview. “And there are some bright spots.”
Among the highlights in the report:
• The median household income in the Virgin Islands was $40,408 in 2019, compared with a national average of $67,521 (U.S. Census Bureau)
• The average hourly wage in the territory was $23.07 as of May 2021, compared with a national average of $28.01 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
• 33 percent of children under the age of 18 in the territory live in poverty (U.S. Census Bureau)
• 72 percent of public housing households in the Virgin Islands are considered “very low income,” meaning their income is 50 percent or more below the territory’s median family income (U.S. Housing and Urban Development)
• The median incomes for 2021 were: $66,200 on St. John, $61,600 on St. Thomas, and $54,900 on St. Croix (HUD)
• Public school enrollment dropped by another eight percent between the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years. Although it had seemed to stabilize for a couple of years, it has been mostly declining for a decade. (Department of Education)
• In the last school year, enrollment in private and parochial schools jumped by 20 percent.
• The University of the Virgin Islands requires remedial courses for 75 percent of incoming freshmen who graduated from public or parochial schools in the Virgin Islands. (UVI)
• 906 children were born in the Virgin Islands in 2021 (Department of Health)
• The teen birth rate is trending down. Women aged 15 to 19 gave birth to 44 children in 2020, signifying a teen birth rate of 15 per 1,000 population — the same as the national rate. The V.I. rate has fluctuated greatly over the years and has been as high as 43 per 1,000 in the past decade. (Department of Health)
James said negative statistics in Kids Count should not be read as an indictment of any particular department or agency but rather as a call to action. “We’ve got a lot of work to do … to ensure that our children are healthy and whole,” she said.
“This is just the beginning. … All of that work begins now.”
To access the report, go to: bit.ly/2022KidsCountUSVI or contact the St. Croix Community Foundation at 340-773-9898.