State improves ranking in children’s well-being

Published 1:16 am Friday, June 16, 2017

The state of Alabama jumped up two spots to No. 44 in the rankings of each state in improving the wellbeing of its children.

The 2017 Kids Count Data Book was released this week by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The Foundation looks at 16 indicators in four areas: economic well-being, education, health and family and community, to make its determination on how well children are in each state. Alabama improved in 11 of the 16 indicators.

Though the state ranked near the bottom at 46th nationally a year ago, this year Alabama bounced back a bit to improve to 44th after positive growth in a number of areas.

One of the key areas of growth for the state was in the area of health, but the state still ranks behind a good portion of the country in that category.

“The 2017 Kids Count Data Book shows that some policies, such as the state’s focus on college and career readiness and the expansion of high-quality pre-K, are helping Alabama’s children move in the right direction,” said Melanie R. Bridgeforth, executive director of VOICES for Alabama’s Children. “At 44th in the nation, it is clear that we still have a long way to go to ensure that every child has an opportunity to succeed.”

In Covington County, Pre-K was available last school year in all schools except Fleeta and W.S. Harlan. W.S. Harlan was recently awarded a classroom for the upcoming school year.

Arkansas, Arizona, Nevada, Louisiana, New Mexico and Mississippi are the states ranked lower than Alabama.

The 2017 Data Book revealed that, since 2010, Alabama has seen significant improvements in several indicators.

Children without health insurance has decreased by half, with only 3 percent of the state’s children lacking health insurance. Alabama’s teen birth rate decreased by 32 percent and children living in families where no parent had full-time, year-round work decreased by 11 percent. Also, 11 percent of high school children did not graduate on time, which is well below the national average of 17 percent.

Math and reading proficiency are two areas in which the state still lags far behind the rest of the country, and despite a steady decline since 2010, 27 percent of the state’s children still continue to live in poverty.

29 percent of Alabama children also live in families that spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing.

“Every year, this report, along with our Alabama Kids Count Data Book, identify opportunities where we can bolster the health, education and economic well-being of children in Alabama,” Bridgeforth said. “This research has guided VOICES for Alabama’s Children’s work for 25 years and will continue to be a roadmap for improving child wellbeing moving forward.”

What would it take for Alabama to improve in other areas?

To equal the national average of 21 percent of children in poverty, Alabama would need to reduce the number of children in poverty by 64,667. To equal the No. 1 spot, Alabama must reduce that number by a staggering 172,444.

To equal the national average of 53 percent of young children not in school, the state would need to reduce the number of children, age 3-4, not attending preschool by 4,842. To equal the No. 1 spot, Alabama must reduce that number by 25,421.

VOICES for Alabama’s Children will release 2017 Alabama Kinds Count Data Book in September, but in 2016 Covington County was ranked 48 out of 67 counties which was down from No. 42 in 2015.