BECAUSE OF ERRORS IN THE ORIGINAL REPORT, YESTERDAY'S STORY AND ACCOMPANYING CHART ABOUT THE D.C. KIDS COUNT COLLABORATIVE'S REPORT ON THE QUALITY OF LIFE FOR DISTRICT CHILDREN GAVE INCORRECT DATA ON THE NUMBER OF PEDIATRIC AIDS CASES IN THE CITY. THE NUMBER OF NEW AIDS CASES DID NOT RISE DRASTICALLY LAST YEAR. THE NUMBER OF CASES AMONG CHILDREN 12 AND YOUNGER ROSE FROM 157 IN 1997 TO 168 IN 1998, AND AIDS CASES INCREASED FROM 40 TO 47 AMONG YOUNGTERS 13 TO 19 YEARS OLD. THE NUMBER FOR 1998 AIDS CASES USED IN THE ARTICLE AND THE CHART ARE THE CUMULATIVE NUMBERS OF AIDS CASES FOR THE WASHINGTON REGION, NOT JUST THE DISTRICT. (PUBLISHED 09/10/99)
The 94,500 children who live in the District are growing up with less violence and greater economic security than was seen by their older brothers and sisters, but an increasing number are suffering from AIDS or the sexually transmitted disease chlamydia.
That's the assessment of the D.C. Kids Count Collaborative, which in its annual report on the quality of life for District children cited an array of statistics that reflect a somewhat better life for the city's shrinking juvenile population.
The key demographic change spotlighted by the report, to be released today, was the 17 percent decline in the population of children since 1990. The under-18 population dropped from 114,200 in 1990 to 94,500 in 1997. Thousands moved to the suburbs as births declined from 11,800 in 1990 to 7,900 seven years later.
The city's total population is 523,000.
"People don't find that this is the best place to raise children," said Carolyn S. Abdullah, executive director of the D.C. Children's Trust Fund and one of the report's overseers. "For the poor population, it's less expensive to live outside the District in some communities in Prince George's County, where the housing is cheaper. And we haven't had the strongest school system."
Demographers found fewer teenagers are dying violent deaths, the court dockets have fewer neglect and child support cases, and school testing performance has improved in the lower grades. A growing percentage of pregnant women receives adequate prenatal care, which has helped bring down the city's infant mortality rate. And the number of juvenile crime cases referred to the courts in 1998 dropped by almost 25 percent from two years earlier.
After welfare reforms were adopted, the number of children on the rolls fell from 46,556 in 1997 to 41,165 the next year. At the same time, the steady loss of jobs from the District over the past decade was reversed with this year's modest increase of 5,000 new jobs.
But the report flagged troubling trends as well. From 1997 to 1998, new cases of AIDS among children younger than 13 leapt 70 percent, from 157 to 267. Most are the result of HIV infections that were passed from their mothers during childbirth and later developed into full-blown AIDS. Among teenagers, new AIDS diagnoses in the same period grew even faster, more than doubling from 40 to 88.
Ivan C.A. Walks, the director-designate of the D.C. Health Department, said yesterday that the numbers are troubling and will get his attention after he takes office Monday.
"Any number of children with AIDS is too many," he said. "That sort of increase is not something I can tolerate."
Although gonorrhea and syphilis reports have fallen in the past three years, chlamydia infections among young people surged from 907 in 1996 to 1,480 in 1998. Chlamydia, the most common bacterial sexually transmitted disease, has no symptoms in most women and when left untreated can cause sterility.
While neglect cases declined, child abuse cases filed with the courts from 1997 to 1998 jumped 20 percent to 304. Abdullah attributed the growth in abuse cases to the city making it easier for residents to report improper treatment of children. Neglect, she said, is more difficult to identify and substantiate in court.
The report said a growing portion of the city's children are being raised in homes with absent fathers. In 1990, that rate was 49 percent; last year, it reached 58 percent.
"Perhaps mothers are more independent and see no need to stay in a relationship that might not be good for them," Abdullah said. "We don't really have a handle on that."
But it's clear, she said, that the city has a long way to go promote the well-being of children in the city.
"There are improvements happening in the District but still a lot of work that needs to be done," Abdullah said. "Everybody has a part to play to get involved and make things a little bit better for families and children."
CAPTION: State of Health for D.C.'s Children (This graphic was not available)