Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics Reports Children Gaining in Many Areas
By Meghan Fay, Assistant Editor

The fourth annual interagency federal report, America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being 2000, has found that youth violence and teen birth rates are down, while high school volunteerism is up and the majority of the nations’ kindergartners know the alphabet. The report is the US government’s annual monitoring report on the status of America’s children. (Click here to read more about high school volunteerism and kindergartners)

It shows that the rate of serious violent crimes committed by young people was the lowest recorded since National Crime Victimization Survey data were first collected in 1973. In 1998, the offending rate for youth was 27 serious violent crimes per 1,000 adolescents ages 12 to 17. This represents a drop by more than half from the 1993 high. Also declining was the rate of serious violent crimes against youth, which was 25 per 1,000 in 1998, down from the peak of 44 per 1,000 in 1993.

Upon its release, John J. Wilson, Acting Administrator of the Justice Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), said in a written statement that, “the dramatic and sustained drop in youth violence provides continuing evidence that the dire predictions of a coming wave of juvenile violence were wrong. It also gives us considerable reason to believe that through comprehensive and coordinated efforts at the federal, state and local levels, we are making a difference for our young people, their families and their communities. However, we must continue to support prevention and early intervention programs that work if we are to continue to reduce juvenile violence.”

According to Charlotte Kerr, Acting Director of Research and Program Development Division at OJJDP, the report is critical to communicating these facts such as the fact that youth violence is dropping to the general public. With the release of this report, however, Kerr and her colleagues realize that many key violence prevention and intervention programs are proving successful. 

Currently, OJJDP is evaluating other programs such as teen courts and juvenile mentoring to see if they are effective in the effort to decrease youth violence. According to Kerr, once these programs and others are evaluated, OJJDP can offer them to communities as options of what may prove successful if implemented correctly. “They (communities) are crying out for programs,” said Kerr, and not just one type – a range. “We want to give communities a choice.” 

In addition to the drop in youth violence, the report found that American children are less likely to die during childhood, less likely to live in poverty, less likely to be at risk for hunger and less likely to give birth during adolescence than in previous years. 

“From toddlers through teens, there’s good news in this report,” said Duane Alexander, M.D., Director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) in a written statement. “The adolescent birth rate, in particular, has dropped to the lowest level ever recorded. This is a true success story. Child rearing during adolescence is a hardship on mothers, their children and society.” (Click here to read more about Teen Birth Rates)

Edward Sondik, Ph.D., Director of the National Center for Health Statistics, agrees that the report bears good news, especially with a decline in the childhood death rates. “Between 1980 and 1998, the death rate for children from ages one to four dropped by almost half and the death rate for children five to 14 was reduced by a third,” said Sondik in a written statement.  (Click here to read more about Childhood Mortality Rates)

The encouraging statistics also showed improvement in childhood education. Gary W. Phillips, Acting Commissioner of the National Center for Educational Statistics, said in a written statement that, “enrollment in early childhood education is up, particularly among children living in poverty, among children with mothers who were not in the labor force, and among black, non-Hispanic children. This too is a positive trend.”


America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being is issued by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. The report is available from the Forum’s Website at www.childstats.gov or through the National Maternal and Child Health Clearinghouse, 2070 Chain Bridge Road, Suite 450, Vienna, Virginia 22182, number 703.356.1964, email nmchc@circsol.com

Information about OJJDP publications, programs and conferences is available through the OJJDP publications, programs and conferences is available through the OJJDP Website at www.ojjdp.ncjrs.org and from OJJDP’s Juvenile Justice Clearinghouse, Box 6000, Rockville, Maryland 20857. The toll-free number is 800.638.8736.

Information about other Office of Justice Programs (OJP) bureaus and programs offices is available at www.ojp.usdoj.gov

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