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Report: MA Doing Well by Kids – But Could Do Better

PHOTO: A new report on the potential developmental impact of poverty on children shows the Commonwealth doing better than many states in investing in the first eight years of children's lives. Coutesy Ed.gov
PHOTO: A new report on the potential developmental impact of poverty on children shows the Commonwealth doing better than many states in investing in the first eight years of children's lives. Coutesy Ed.gov


November 4, 2013

BOSTON - Massachusetts is doing better than many states in making sure its children, in their first eight years of life, benefit from early care and education programs. That's according to a new, nationwide report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Their Kids Count survey finds the Commonwealth leads the country in screening young children for developmental delays or mental health problems.

According to Noah Berger of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, the state's Medicaid system does that.

"About two out of three of our lower-income young children get these screenings and then have the possibility of getting the services they need, while in the rest of the country it's only one out of three."

The study showed the Commonwealth has another advantage: At 32 percent, it had the lowest proportion in the country of young children living in low-income households in 2012. Berger said making sure good jobs are plentiful should be a priority if that's to be maintained.

He said the take-away from the report is that you can't look at any one part of a child's development in isolation.

"And it's also important to think about the issue of poverty itself, making sure that there are good jobs for their families at decent wages, so that children don't grow up in poverty and face all of the challenges that that brings with it."

Laura Speer of the Annie E. Casey Foundation said parents and children would benefit if federal, state, local and business strategies were applied to investments in kids' development.

"Having the flexible work schedule - it's so important," she said. "Also, things like providing paid sick leave for parents could make a huge, huge difference."

And while the Commonwealth stands out as a leader in the study - entitled, "The First Eight Years: Giving Kids a Foundation for Lifetime Success" - Noah Berger said it isn't perfect.

"We've cut funding by 25 percent for early education and care, while we know that providing early education that's of high quality is really important to these kids' development. So, in many ways, Massachusetts is doing things well, but there are definitely things we could be doing much better," Berger cautioned.

The report is available at AECF.org.




Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - MA