Delaware children remain at the middle of the pack when it comes to their well-being and health, new data shows.
The state, ranked 23rd in the U.S. for overall child well-being, has climbed to No. 14 in the health rankings but still has more than 39,000 children living below the poverty line, according to a recent Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count study.
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Janice Barlow, director of Kids Count at the University of Delaware, says that’s bad news considering how big an impact a child’s environment has on their future.
“Children’s experiences today shape the adults that they will grow into tomorrow, impacting our collective long-term success,” Barlow said. “Therefore, it is critical to measure and to understand the conditions in which children live so that we can invest our time, effort and resources to ensure the best return on investment for Delaware.”
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In recent years, government policies have helped drive positive outcomes in the lives of children and children’s healthcare, according to Kids Count. Notably, since 2010, Delaware has seen a 40-percent drop in the number of children without health insurance.
Nationally, only 5 percent of U.S. children lack health care coverage — a historic low, due to the combination of key provisions of the Affordable Care Act and expansions to Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Delaware’s rate is better than the national, with 3 percent of kids lacking coverage, according to Kids Count.
Florencia Gutierrez, a senior research associate for Kids Count, says that’s something Delawareans should be proud of.
“In Delaware, we see a huge gain in children’s health,” she said. “In Delaware, you have 97 percent of your children with access to health care. You’re close to achieving universal healthcare for kids.”
But unfortunately, a rise in the state’s child poverty rate is emerging as a worrisome trend for Delaware. Consistent with concentrations of poverty nationwide, the percentage of children living in high-poverty areas in Delaware has increased by 25 percent compared to 2008-2012 data, according to Kids Count. The percentage of children living in single-parent families is also up.
“You are among 10 states in the country that has seen the poverty rate increase since 2010,” Gutierrez said.
That means a total of 40 states improved their child poverty rates, while Delaware regressed. Gutierrez said the state now has more kids living in families with limited resources, who are in turn living in communities with limited resources, making it less likely they’ll succeed.
She said policy change — like increasing the minimum wage or creating new tax credit programs — could be possible solutions to the problem.
“We really believe that decision makers need to look at the data,” she said. “They need to look and it and use it.”
“Without this data, we would never know if the policies are working, if our programs are working.”
The annual KIDS COUNT Data Book uses 16 indicators to rank each state across four areas — health, education, economic well-being and family and community — that represent what children need most to thrive.
The state has slipped 11 spots in the area of children’s economic well-being, according to the new data, and is ranked 23rd in education and 26th in family and community.
New Hampshire ranked first among states for overall child well-being, moving up one from 2016, while Massachusetts and Vermont filled out the top three. Louisiana, New Mexico and Mississippi were the three lowest-ranked states.
The complete report can be found online at http://www.aecf.org/resources/2017-kids-count-data-book/.
Contact Jessica Bies at (302) 324-2881 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @jessicajbies.