Nevada Gets D-Minus

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Nevada got low marks for the quality of the state's child services on a local advocacy group's biennial report card.

The Children's Advocacy Alliance gave the state an overall grade of D-minus, showing no improvement over the past three reports issued by the group.

Alliance chairman Gard Jameson said Friday that Nevada's children face obstacles before they're born.

According to the 2006 report card, 67 percent of Nevada mothers receive prenatal care, far below the national average of 84 percent. Only New Mexico had a lower rate.

About 8 percent of babies born in Nevada are low birth-weight infants. The national average is 7.9 percent, the group reported.

Children in Nevada also are more vulnerable to disease. The Silver State ranks 49th in the nation for its low rate of immunization among 2-year-olds. While 83 percent of toddlers nationally have been immunized, the rate is 67 percent in Nevada.

"What we do not address today, we will pay for tomorrow," Jameson said while speaking at a breakfast meeting of government officials and child advocates at the Las Vegas Country Club. "These issues will come back to haunt us."

The Alliance bases the grades on the national Kids Count report and data from public agencies.

The state of education earned an overall grade of F in Nevada, largely because of low SAT scores and student-to-teacher ratios that exceed those found in 45 other states.

Jameson said the report card is a tool that the group uses to inform lawmakers of the state of children's issues before the start of a legislative session. It also is a means of highlighting areas of need for government officials.

Assistant Clark County Manager Darryl Martin said he is looking forward to seeing what the 2008 report card will contain.

By then, Family Services will have significantly increased its staffing, Martin said. Children in county custody will have medical passports that will track their care and needs while in the system.