EVERY two hours, a child dies of a gunshot wound, as nearly 4 million American children are growing up in severely distressed neighborhoods in every state but Idaho, according to the 1994 Kids Count Report released today.
The report - which traces across-the-board state profiles of child well-being since 1985 - says while deaths of 15-year-olds to 19-year-olds caused by accidents decreased by 15 percent, homicide deaths doubled. That raises the teen violent-death rate 13 percent since 1985. Indeed, 33 states and the District of Columbia followed the trend toward a worsening teen violent-death rate.
Compounding the problem is the rise in juvenile violent-crime arrest rates, which reflect the number of youth between 10 and 17 arrested for homicide, forcible rape, and robbery. From 1985 to 1991, arrest rates rose from 305 to 457 per 100,000 kids.
``While these numbers are alarming, they reflect more so that juvenile conflicts are becoming more lethal rather than a substantial increase in the number of kids engaging in violence,'' said Barry Krisberg of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency in San Francisco.
The report comes on the heels of another study released last week by the Carnegie Corporation, which pinpoints a pattern of neglect threatening the well-being of children under 3 years. Hillary Rodham Clinton said the Carnegie report outlined an ``appalling portrait'' of America's children.
This year's Kids Count report also showed that severely distressed neighborhoods - characterized by high levels of poverty, female-headed families, high-school dropouts, and unemployment - aren't confined to the inner city but are spreading to rural areas, particularly in Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
``We can no longer be surprised by the terrible outcomes experienced by young people who grow up in environments where violence and teenage pregnancies are more prevalent than high-school diplomas and good jobs,'' said Douglas Nelson, executive director of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which released this year's report.