Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF)
Available at http://www.kidscount.org/datacenter/databook.jsp
The 19th KIDS COUNT Data Book continues the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual state-by-state tracking of the well-being of the nation’s children, ranking states on 10 key measures and providing data on the economic, health, education and social demographics of U.S. children and families.
The 2008 KIDS COUNT report relies on data from 2005 and 2006, the most recent years for which information is available. Five indicators showed improvement: the child death rate, teen death rate, teen birth rate, high school dropout rate, and teens who are neither in school nor working all decreased.
Indicators in four areas got worse: the number of low birth-weight babies, children living in families where neither parent is employed full-time year-round, children in poverty and children in single-parent families all increased.
The infant mortality rate showed no change.
The states varied considerably on each of the 10 measures. For example, Maryland and New Hampshire had the lowest child poverty rates, at 10 percent, while Mississippi had the highest, at 30 percent.
New Hampshire also ranked best on three other indicators, with the fewest idle teens (4 percent), the lowest teen birth rate (18 per 1,000 females) and the lowest child death rate (8 per 100,000 ages 1-14).
Louisiana – unsurprisingly, in the wake of the continuing fallout from Hurricane Katrina – ranked worst on five key indicators: children with no parent employed full-time year-round (43 percent), idle teens (a three-way tie, at 12 percent), high school dropout rate (11 percent), teen death rate (two-way tie at 103 per 100,000 ages 15-19) and child death rate (34 per 100,000 ages 1-14).
Overall, national trends in well-being showed little change between 2000 and 2005-06. The percentage of children living in poverty inched up to 18 percent.
“I hope I don’t need to emphasize that this is bad news,” said Doug Nelson, president of the Casey foundation, at a Capitol Hill news conference where the Data Book was released.
Each year, an essay accompanying the KIDS COUNT Data Book highlights a critical issue facing disadvantaged youth and families. Past essays have focused on permanence and family connections for children in foster care (2007) and disconnected youth without degrees or employment (2004).
This year’s essay, “A Road Map for Juvenile Justice Reform,” focuses on the nation’s troubled juvenile justice system and profiles model programs with the potential to change the lives of the nearly 100,000 youth confined in secure facilities on any given day.
The essay argues for keeping juveniles out of adult systems, reducing dependency on incarceration, making juvenile institutions safe and development-focused, and eliminating the disproportionate arrest, sentencing and incarceration of minority youth.
“We now know enough to turn these systems around,” Nelson said.
Other experts at the news conference discussed successful programs, such as the foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative and the Missouri Model of small residential treatment-focused homes for juveniles, as well as the value for both offenders and juvenile systems of release planning, parental input, cultural competence and reading programs for incarcerated youth.
Mindful that public safety is also a concern, Nelson said that reforms are not only about the short-term harm being done to badly served youth, but about realizing that to reduce victimization, “we’ve got to turn people who cause pain and harm in our society into people who become productive.”
“The issue is no longer getting there by using more vengeance and vindication, because it only leads to more of what makes [youth] angry,” he said.