Youth death rates, high-poverty areas remain concerns in new KIDS COUNT Data Book

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.—New data released Tuesday is giving Hoosiers a snapshot of child welfare throughout the state.

The 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book, compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, ranked Indiana 28th in the nation when it comes to overall child well-being, with New Hampshire coming in first, and Mississippi ranking last.

KIDS COUNT Data Book evaluates four measures of childhood well-being including family and community, economic, education and health.

The Data Book finds that Indiana improved in the past year when it comes to child economic well-being, jumping to 19th in the county. But when it comes to education, Indiana ranks 14th in the nation, and 35th in the nation when it comes to health.

Areas of Improvement:

The KIDS COUNT Data Book found that the greatest improvements made were economic. The data also revealed that fewer children in Indiana are uninsured, and fewer teens are abusing drugs and alcohol. Additional, the data found that fewer kids are living in poverty than in the past.

Areas of Concern:

“While we are encouraged by the strides our state has made, we still have a lot work to do in other areas,” says Tami Silverman, president and CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute.

The KIDS COUNT Data Book found several areas of childhood well-being which are still struggling. While overall poverty levels are lower this year, the percentage of children living in “high-poverty” areas is actually higher.

Thirteen-percent of children live in areas where at least one-in-three people are in poverty. These high-poverty areas, according to the Indiana Youth Institute, can have detrimental effects on children down the road.

Research shows that oftentimes children growing up in high-poverty communities, which oftentimes fall in urban areas, are less likely to have access to high-quality education, are less likely to graduate high school and college, and are more likely to be exposed to health risks and violence.

“We know that there’s a lot of great research out there that says that housing vouchers really are one of the keys to helping children out of poverty. We know that kids with vouchers have improved mental and physical health and overall well-being. We know that in fact it can lead to higher incomes in their mid-20s compared to kids who stayed in those high poverty neighborhoods and environments.”

Indiana also saw an alarming increase in the child and teen death rate from 2010 to 2015. According to the KIDS COUNT Data Book, Indiana ranks 37th in the nation when it comes to the child and teen death rate, and there’s been an increase in the number of homicides and suicides.

The Indiana Youth Institute also found that there have not been the desired improvements in levels of school proficiency and access to pre-K education.

“Indiana’s leaders must continue to focus on improving all aspects of our children’s education, health, economic and family-and-community situations,” Silverman added. “We must ensure we are meeting the needs of the whole child, and giving all Hoosier children the opportunity to reach their full potential, regardless of their circumstances. Our kids deserve to do more than survive; they deserve to thrive!”