In an Annie E. Casey Foundation study, Rhode Island ranked 31st in the nation and last out of New England states in child-well being.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation released their 26th Annual Kids Count Data Book today, July 21, providing a data profile for the welfare of children in each state.
Overall they found that in 2013 18.7 million children, or 25 percent of children were living in “low income working families” nearly, 1.7 million more than during the Great Recession.
The report looked at four key areas, economic well-being, education, health and family and community and within each category analyzed several factors to see whether or not there had been improvement in each state.
Besides its overall ranking, Rhode Island also received a rank within each of the four categories.
In economic well-being Rhode Island was ranked 36th having increases since 2008 in children living in poverty and children whose parents did not have secure employment, 22 and 34 percent, respectively, for 2013. The state fares slightly better in education, ranking 24th in the country, seeing major improvements since 2007. Reducing the percentage of 4th grade students not proficient (62 percent in 2013) in reading and 8th graders not proficient (64 percent in 2013) in math.
Rhode island was 33rd in the family and community domain, having an increase in single parent families and children living in high poverty areas.
In 2013 83,000 or 41 percent of children were in single parent families where there were only 34 percent in 2008. Between 2009 and 2013 31,000 children, 14 percent, were living in high poverty areas.
The state had its best ranking in the health of children at 12th in the country, seeing improvements in every category. In 2013 there were fewer low weight births, fewer children without health insurance, fewer child and teen deaths, and fewer teens abusing alcohol and drugs.
Elizabeth Burke Bryant, executive director for Rhode Island Kids Count, said in an interview Friday that the state has had long history of prioritizing children’s health and Rhode Island’s RIte Care health insurance for children is number one in the country.
“When children have regular doctor appointments parents are getting access to information on children’s safety, on different illnesses, moms get better prenatal care and it’s exciting to see all of it come together to show a positive a difference,” she said.
Despite seeing improvements in many areas, Rhode Island’s progression is moving slower than many other states. This year Rhode Island saw a decrease in ranking, dropping to 31 from 26 the past two years.
Rhode Island had one of the biggest negative rank change in the country along with West Virginia, Indiana, Virginia, Arkansas and Vermont.
Burke Bryant said that when everyone is trying to better the lives of children you are up against “tough competition” for a positive rank. She noted that Rhode Island had the worst results in economic well-being and a big part of that is that Rhode island isn’t recovering as quickly as other states from the recession, but she believes between the new government and other elected officials there is a “sharp focus” on economic recovery that will help the children of the state as well.
“It’s critical to ensure parents have the jobs necessary to lift them and their children out of poverty,” Burke Bryant said. “The good news is that with this new leadership I think we can expect to see improvements.”
The report itself provides recommendations, mainly a “two-generation” plan that focuses not only on children, but their parents as well. The plan recommends improving educational opportunities for both parties so that children are getting a high quality education despite their circumstances and parents can have more pathways through which they can prepare for the workforce.
“By increasing their earning power parents get better jobs and are better able to provide for their children,” Burke Bryant said. “Reports like these are critical tools for policy and planning to protect our kids.”
For more information on Rhode Island KIDS COUNT visit www.rikidscount.org. The full data report can be read at www.aecf.org.