Reports due on well-being of city's children

The 3 statistical snapshots, released today, will help identify problems as well as solutions.

In the 19122 zip code in North Philadelphia, the birth rate among mothers ages 15 to 17 in 2005 was 43 per 1,000, almost half what it was the year before.

Ninety percent of the 283 juvenile drug arrests last year in the Bridesburg-Kensington-Richmond area were in zip code 19134.

In West Philadelphia, 55.7 percent of public school students graduated from high school within four years in 2006, down from the previous year and below the city rate of 58.3 percent. In West Philadelphia's 19151 zip code, the graduation rate of 61.2 percent was above average for the city but still marked a 4.1 percentage point decline from 2005.

These are just some of the statistical snapshots in a set of reports being released today to assist decision makers, researchers and communities in identifying problems afflicting children - as well as possible solutions - on a zip code-by-zip code basis in the 11 city planning districts outside Center City.

The community report cards issued today for the second year by the nonprofit Philadelphia Safe and Sound and the Philadelphia Children's Commission cover three districts: Bridesburg-Kensington-Richmond, West Philadelphia, and lower North Philadelphia. The remaining eight are to be issued by the end of the year, said Anne L. Shenberger, president and CEO of Philadelphia Safe and Sound.

The community report cards are an outgrowth of an eight-year-old citywide report card that this year painted a mixed picture of the well-being of children and youth at a time when teen homicides are increasing and a growing percentage of young people are living in poverty.

This afternoon, Mayor Street is expected to take part in a community meeting at the Sayre Community School Beacon, 5800 Walnut St., to discuss elements of the West Philadelphia report covering zip code 19139.

Based on the report, some of the subjects that could come up include an increase in the chlamydia rate in the 15 to 19 age group, a decline in the number of homes with children who have elevated lead levels, and a sharp spike in homicides in the 7 to 24 age group, from five in 2005 to 15 last year.

Shenberger said the meeting would be the first in a series planned around the city.

"The aim is to really put some emphasis on the need for community involvement in working on the issues, but also identifying what they think the reasons are for the changes we are seeing in the different zip codes," she said.

She said the reports gauge indicators that can serve as talking points for discussions aimed at seeking solutions.

"The report cards raise more questions than they give answers because they tell you where to look, but they don't tell you why the results are what you are seeing," Shenberger said.

The reports are available at Safe and Sound's Web site, www.philasafesound.org.


Contact staff writer Joseph Gambardello at 215-854-2153 or jgambardello@phillynews.com.