N.C. Children Show Improving Education, Health, Declining Economic Security

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A new analysis on child wellbeing released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows mixed progress for kids in North Carolina.

On the one hand, the state breaks into the top 20 best performing states in education, ranking 20th in two indicators: fourth-grade reading proficiency and eighth-graders proficient in math. The report also finds the number of children without health insurance dropped 20 percent since the start of the recession. But on the other hand, the percent of children living in families where no parent has full-time, yearround employment jumped 25 percent, from 28 percent in 2008 to 35 percent in 2010. One in every four children in North Carolina now lives in poverty, one in 11 children in our state now lives in high-poverty communities, according to the 2012 KIDS COUNT Data Book.

Kids who live in poverty and with unemployed parents often face challenges that upset other areas of child wellbeing, so these statistics are particularly troubling. Eroding family economic security and recent budget cuts are jeopardizing gains made in children’s health and education, according to Action for Children North Carolina, a policy research and advocacy organization.

The rate of kids without health insurance in North Carolina has dropped because even as children and families have lost access to employer-sponsored health insurance, children have gained covered through Medicaid and NC Health Choice, the state children’s health insurance program.  More than 1 million children in North Carolina, more than four in every ten children in the state, receive access to health insurance through these programs, some of which face budget cuts.

North Carolina now ranks 34th out of 50 states in overall child well-being, according to the report. The analysis looked at four domains, where our state was rated as follows: Health (26) and Education (25), Economic Well-Being (35) and Family and Community (36).

What’s one simple way to help kids living in poverty? If you can afford it, send one child back to school equipped with the supplies he or she needs. On Monday, Communities In Schools of North Carolina (CISNC), a dropout prevention effort, has teamed up with Walmart, to kick off a “Build a Backpack” program to collect school supplies for economically-disadvantaged students in North Carolina. Walmart customers can buy school supplies and donate them in bins at 139 Walmart stores across the state through Aug. 31. Your donations will be given to CISNC affiliates and other designated nonprofits for distribution to low-income public school children in 79 counties across the state.

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