Source: Wilder Foundation

Almost half of Minnesota's youngest children risk a rocky start at life, according to a new report.

Nearly 200,000 children under age 6 live in areas where poverty rates are high, health care is inadequate and risk factors to healthy development are common. The findings come from a new report by the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, which has produced a county-by-county survey of conditions facing the youngest and most vulnerable Minnesotans.

The Wilder Foundation report singled out 15 high-risk counties, scattered around the state, where children can face a series of hurdles -- from higher-than-average rates of parental unemployment to lower-than-average rates of prenatal care -- that can combine to give a child a rough start in life.

High-risk counties ranged from urban Ramsey County, where 28 percent of children under age 6 live in poverty, to northwestern Mahnomen County, where the infant mortality rate is almost three times the state average.

In an otherwise prosperous state, researchers found pockets of stark disparity, particularly in areas with large American Indian communities or larger minority populations.

In north-central Wadena County, a quarter of young children had no working parents. In Mahnomen, almost a quarter of babies were born to mothers who had not finished high school. In Mille Lacs, children under age 5 were three times as likely to have had a maltreatment report filed with the county.

In Todd County, 16 percent of young children had no health insurance. Barely a third of 2-year-olds in Chisago County had had their recommended childhood immunizations. In Beltrami, 45 out of every 1,000 children under age 6 were living in foster care, compared to the statewide average of 8 out of every 1,000.

The Wilder Foundation will host a public forum Wednesday to discuss the report's finding. You can read the full report here and a summary of the report's findings below: