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Utah Again Drops in the Rankings for Childhood Well-Being

PHOTO: The latest KIDS COUNT Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranks Utah 14th in the nation for childhood well-being. That's down from 11th in the previous report, with the drop coming as all economic indicators worsened. CREDIT: Muffet
PHOTO: The latest KIDS COUNT Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranks Utah 14th in the nation for childhood well-being. That's down from 11th in the previous report, with the drop coming as all economic indicators worsened. CREDIT: Muffet
June 24, 2013

SALT LAKE CITY - Utah continues to be among the best states for child well-being, but its ranking nationally continues to fall, according to a new report. The 2013 KIDS COUNT Data Book looked at 16 indicators for economics, health, education and family. Utah came in 14th.

However, as Terry Haven, deputy director, Voices for Utah Children, noted, just four years ago the Beehive State was ranked third.

"I don't usually concentrate on the rankings," Haven said, "because little changes can make a difference in those rankings, so things can change. But the reality is we keep going down, which is a negative trend. There are things that we can do that would really help our situation."

One effort that would help, Haven suggested, is reducing the number of Utah children without health insurance, currently at around 100,000. Another focus must be on getting more at-risk kids into preschool, she said, because quality early education has been proven effective.

"A pilot program with Granite School District showed that kids who tested at special ed levels when they entered preschool changed. We've got data through fifth grade, and some of them are testing ahead of their peers. Those are kids who without preschool would have been in special education as they entered school and stayed that way throughout their career," she said.

Education was the area where Utah fared the worst, ranking 30th. Haven said the other finding that was most troubling was the across-the-board worsening in economic well-being, including the number of children living in poverty: nearly 140,000.

The full report is available at www.utahchildren.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - UT