Lake County Sits at the Bottom of Kids Count Rankings

The annual Kids Count Data Report is out and small, poor Northern Michigan Counties sit near the bottom of the rankings. Lake County finished in last.

The Kids Count Data Book measures the well being of children in every county across the state. Multiple factors from education to poverty levels to child abuse and neglect are tallied into a final overall score. Five Northern Michigan Counties finished in the bottom 10.

“It didn’t happen in a day and it’s not going to be fixed in a day,” says Lori Schultz, director of the Department of Health and Human Services for Lake and Newaygo Counties, “It seems like it’s that long marathon race.”

Lake County sits at the bottom of child well being rankings in Michigan, the highest rate of poverty in the state.

“When you’re in poverty for that long of a time, it’s a continual cycle that we’re trying to address,” says Schultz, “We’re trying to attack it at all levels.

Those financial stresses can leak into the schools. Lake coming second to last in college readiness at graduation, 91.3% of students not ready.

“Some kids are worried about a lot of other things other than academics and that presents its own set of challenges,” says Baldwin Community Schools superintendent Rick Heitmeyer.

Lake also has the worst rate of abuse or neglect, not always physical abuse but housing, food and emotional insecurities.

“Weekend, summers, times like that some kids aren’t getting all the nutrition that they need,” says Heitmeyer, “So while we have them, we do all we can to ensure they have what it takes to be better prepared.”

“That’s slowly going down but it really doesn’t look like it in the Kids Count data,” says Schultz.

The county feels like they are trying to do more with less. With such a small population, and even less industry, it’s going to be a tough road ahead.

“Do we need more financial resources? Yes,” says Schultz, “But financial resources are depending on the tax base and if we don’t have a lot of people living here and a lot of economic development, then that’s an issue for us.”