The 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book report released this month by The Annie E. Casey Foundation provides an annual snapshot of how America’s children and families are faring in areas of economic wellbeing, education, health, family and community in all 50 states.

The KIDS COUNT data shows progress in some categories between 2010 and 2015, but also highlights areas of concern. Of particular note, according to the report:

  • Parental employment and wages are up, and a record number of children have health insurance.
  • Teenagers are more likely to graduate high school and less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.
  • Child poverty rates remain high (21% across the nation), and more families live in neighborhoods with a high concentration of poverty.
  • Far too many children are below grade level in reading and math.

“Even where we see improvements, deep racial and ethnic disparities remain,” the report states. “Although trends in child well-being are shaped by many forces, it’s indisputable that good public policy makes a tremendous difference. We know that a failure to invest wisely — or to not invest at all — negatively affects children’s opportunities to reach their full potential.”

The purpose of the report is to highlight to policymakers areas of need and to encourage them to continue to support targeted investments that help the nation’s children. Decades of research has shown that children who are given access to early childhood education and other social support services are more likely to be healthier, to graduate from high school, and to become gainfully employed.

“By not prioritizing poverty reduction and by failing to adequately ameliorate its effects when children are young and intervention has the biggest payoff, we waste an unconscionable amount of individual human potential,” the report stated. “A decade ago, researchers found child and youth poverty cost the country an estimated $500 billion a year in reduced economic output and increased health and criminal justice expenditures. These costs are undoubtedly higher today. But far beyond wasted dollars, failing to provide children with opportunities to reach their potential jeopardizes our nation’s prosperity and economic position in the world.”

In this year’s report, New Hampshire ranked first among states for overall child well-being, moving up one from 2016. Massachusetts and Vermont filled out the top three. Louisiana, New Mexico and Mississippi were the three lowest-ranked states. Data are available for all states.

Want to know more about ACS’ work with children? Our success with clients such as PRE4CLE, Franklin County Department of Jobs and Family Services, and First Things First Arizona highlight ACS’ work with systems that support children and youth a priority in communities across the nation.

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