An annual report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation provides a good overview of the state of children in this country, including a separate indicator on how children are faring in Florida.
Florida scored an overall ranking of 38th in the nation this year, compared with 36th last year.
Children still suffer from the economic downturn. The economy’s effect on their parents — or parent, as often is the case — trickles down to how healthy a child is, how well a child performs in school and where a child lives.
That means we need more conversation on the status of children in this state. It means we must make state
lawmakers sensitive to the need for improved services that directly affect children, such as health care and education. Creating jobs for parents is perhaps the biggest factor that can change the plight of children.
At the same time, it’s important to recognize that programs are in place locally that are focused on helping children succeed, but these programs need attention and support.
“To continue to improve the lives of children in Florida, we must provide our communities with the assistance they need to feed, house and educate our families,” said Susan Weitzel, Florida Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count director.
This year’s Kids Count report focused on four indicators. In economic well-being, Florida ranked 44th; education, 36th; health, 38th; and family and community, 35th.
According to Florida Kids Count:
• 49 percent of children live in households where more than 30 percent of the household income is spent on rent, mortgages, taxes, etc.
• Florida has more than 500,000 children without any health insurance.
• 65 percent of fourth-grade students are not proficient in reading, and 72 percent of eighth-graders are not proficient in math. Those numbers actually are an improvement from previous years.
• 23 percent of children are living in poverty.
According to the national report, in 2010, a third of youth had parents without solid employment, an increase of 22 percent in two years. Between 2005 and 2010, the number of children living in poverty increased by 2.4 million.
There’s plenty of work to be done to help our children. But progress can be made, one program at a time, with every community’s help.