According to a recent report, Kentucky ranks 37th in the nation in overall child well-being.

New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Minnesota and Iowa were the top five, while New Mexico was last just ahead of Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada and Alaska.

The report, the 2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book, was released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The 2018 Kentucky KIDS COUNT County Data Book, which includes county-level data, will be released in November.

Kentucky placed 40th in economic well-being, according to the report.

Despite the state’s improvement in the area since 2010, other states are improving at a faster pace. One in four children are living in poverty and 33 percent live in families where no parent has full-time, year-round employment, the report notes.

Kentucky ranked 28th in health and the state’s kids’ health coverage remains a bright spot with 97 percent of children covered. Two areas of child health that have moved in the wrong direction since 2010, according to the report, are the percent of low birth-weight babies (9.1 percent) and the child and teen death rate (34 per 100,000 youth ages 1 to 19). 

“Health care discussions are filled with challenges, but Kentucky kids have significantly benefited from investments in health coverage over the years, including the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the expansion of Medicaid coverage for their parents. An accurate census count in Kentucky will ensure the commonwealth gets the funds needed to keep kids covered so they can grow up healthy,” said Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates.

The state ranked 29th in education and nearly nine in 10 high school students are graduating on time. However, no significant progress was made from 2009 to 2017 in fourth grade reading and eighth grade math proficiency. Currently, 62 percent of fourth graders are below proficient in reading and 71 percent of eighth graders are below proficient in math. Additionally, 59 percent of children ages three to four are not attending school, the report notes.

Kentucky ranked 39th in family and community. Between 2010 and 2016, the teen birth rate in Kentucky fell by 33 percent to 31 births per 1,000 females ages 15 to 19. The percent of children in families where the household head lacks a high school diploma also decreased during that time, down to 11 percent. The percent of children living in high-poverty areas remains at 16 percent, according to the report.

According to the Kentucky Youth Advocates, the state needs common-ground solutions on the federal, state, and local levels to guarantee an accurate census count and to help kids and families succeed.

“This is not just an urban or a rural issue. This is not a one community issue. This is a statewide, community-by-community opportunity to ensure each child is counted and therefore planned for in local, state, and federal budgets,” said Brooks. “Given Kentucky’s revenue shortfalls and tough budget decisions in the 2018 legislature, every child accounted for in the 2020 census means federal funding infused into our communities for the next decade. It means Kentucky isn’t risking the gains we’ve made and future improvements in child well-being.”

The complete 2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book can be found at www.aecf.org/databook.

Jonathan Greene is the editor of The Register; follow him on Twitter @jgreeneRR.

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