Once Again, State Ranks Low for Child Well-Being
Florida’s overall child well-being ranking in the recently released 2017 KIDS COUNT report, which ranks states on 16 health, education, economic well-being and family/community indicators, is sobering. The state’s best ranking in recent history was 32nd. Since then, Florida’s child well-being ranking has dropped steadily. Currently the state has sunk to 40th place for the second year in a row.
Aside from the significant improvement in the number of Florida children and families having health insurance, there are few positives in the 2017 KIDS COUNT® Data Book released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Rising Tide of Unmet Need
“What The Children’s Campaign sees reflected in these numbers is Florida’s lack of investment in child well-being,” stated Roy Miller, president of The Children’s Campaign. “The data shows a rising tide of unmet need. Without new investments in children, Florida’s indicators and its ranking could slide downward. “
One of the few bright spots in the report is the 46 percent reduction in the number of uninsured kids in Florida from 2010 to 2015. However, during the same period, there was no improvement in the number of children living in poverty, and the number of children living in geographic areas of concentrated poverty actually increased 17 percent.
With its 45th ranking in economic well-being, Florida ranks in the bottom 10 percent nationwide. Nearly one-third of Florida’s children live in families with no parent having full-time year-round work. While that number represents an improvement from 2010, the economic challenges families face becomes compounded by the high housing cost burden that 40 percent of Florida families face.
According to the KIDS COUNT Data Book, Florida’s child poverty rate (21 percent) is three points higher than at the start of the recession.
The Children’s Campaign agrees with the 2017 KIDS COUNT report that “…the child poverty rate demands immediate action given the role that economic hardship plays in every other indicator.” More parents are working today in Florida. While that is good news, the focus must include: are they earning a livable wage?
Low Scores across the Board
Florida also ranks 44th in health, despite reducing the number of uninsured children. The percentage of babies born at a low-birth weight decreased by one-tenth of one percent. The death rate is a mixed bag for kids, depending upon their age. The teen death rate for kids 15 – 19 decreased, but the death rate for children aged 1 – 14 increased.
In education, Florida also ranks in the bottom half. Despite offering free voluntary pre-kindergarten for all Florida four-year olds, only 50 percent of the state’s children aged 3 and 4 attended school. Seventy four percent of Florida 8th graders are not proficient in math, and 61 percent of fourth graders scored below proficiency levels in reading.
New Investments in Children Needed
For the past several years, Florida’s primary dialogue about children has concentrated on how to improve public education. While critically important, the 16 hours each day that children aren’t in school is equally important. Without a doubt, hardships children and families face outside of school are reflected in how well children do in school. It’s difficult for children to learn if they’re tired, sick, homeless, hungry or have experienced trauma due to being a victim themselves or having suffered a significant adverse childhood experience. There is also a crisis in the number of parents addicted to opiates or other drugs and/or with mental health issues who can’t access intervention or rehabilitation services or don’t seek help.
For Florida child well-being to improve, new investments in children are needed where they will do the most good and result in the best outcomes. Said Miller, “Public investments in children haven’t kept up with population growth. And it shows.”
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This Top Story is brought to you by Roy Miller, Karen Bonsignori and Tiffany McGlinchey