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Mixed Picture Shows Progress For VA Kids

GRAPHIC: The annual Kids Count data snapshot for Virginia shows improvements in education and health, but also rising poverty among the state's children. Credit: Annie E. Casey Foundation
GRAPHIC: The annual Kids Count data snapshot for Virginia shows improvements in education and health, but also rising poverty among the state's children. Credit: Annie E. Casey Foundation
July 23, 2014

RICHMOND, Va. - Big steps forward on education, teen safety and reductions in teen pregnancy - but also rising poverty - are reflected in the latest "Kids Count" data snapshot.

According to the 25th annual Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count report, Virginia has moved up two spots in the overall national rankings in the past year. But Ted Groves, Kids Count director for Voices for Virginia's Children, said the percentage of kids living in poverty also has risen. The mixed picture is because the state has put real effort and focus into things such as preschool funding and tighter seatbelt laws, he said - but not the economic situations of struggling families.

"When we have strategic, focused public policies, we see improvements," he said. "Poverty's a classic example of that. We really don't have a clear focus on poverty, so that's continued to increase, even though the economy seems to get better."

According to the report, state policies have helped bring solid improvements in education and the rate of accidental deaths among teens. Groves said the rate of teen pregnancies has fallen by more than half in the past 25 years.

"The Centers for Disease Control attributes this decline to the fact that more doctors feel comfortable in prescribing the best contraception to teens as well as increasing abstinence," Groves said.

The report also shows a rise in the portion of children living in poverty and the portion living in single-parent homes. Groves said those two things are connected.

"Folks who are in poverty, there's an increased chance that a baby will be born to unmarried parents," he said, "because when couples have poor employment prospects, they're less likely to marry. They just don't have the financial resources to support a family."

The full report is online at aecf.org.

For the future, Groves said, the state should continue to focus on early learning but also do more to assure economic and educational opportunities for parents.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - VA