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South Dakota in the Middle of the Pack in Latest Kids Count Report

June 12, 2008

Vermillion, SD - Right smack dab in the middle. That's where South Dakota is ranked among other states in the latest Kids Count report. The yearly study, coordinated and supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, uses 10 indicators to measure the well-being of children. It lists South Dakota 25th overall.

South Dakota Kids Count program director Carole Cochran says a major focus in this year's report was juvenile justice reform, an area where South Dakota had a poor ranking.

"The rate at which South Dakota commits and detains our youth in custody is among the highest in the nation."

This study does show some improvement in the state's child death rate numbers, however, although South Dakota is still ranked near the bottom, in 46th place. Along with additional concerns, Cochran listed some positive developments relating to older children.

"Our teen birth rate is lower, and our percentage of teens who are high school dropouts is improving. However, those indicators that really look at children seem to have gotten worse, such as the percentage of children living in families where there is no secure employment, the percentage of children in poverty and the percentage of children in single-parent families. All those have gotten worse in South Dakota."

Cochran says the state's infant mortality rate also worsened last year, while nationally the number remained constant. She says the report is a good starting point when it comes to evaluating what can be done to help South Dakota's youngest citizens.

View the report on the South Dakota Kids Count website, www.sdkidscount.org.

David Law/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - SD