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AZ Ranks Near Last Among States for Overall Child Well-Being

A new report says Arizona is showing slow improvement for 3- and 4-year-olds in preschool, from 34 percent in 2010 to 37 percent in 2015. (Pamela Moore/iStockphoto)
A new report says Arizona is showing slow improvement for 3- and 4-year-olds in preschool, from 34 percent in 2010 to 37 percent in 2015. (Pamela Moore/iStockphoto)
June 13, 2017

PHOENIX – Arizona ranks in the bottom five among states - 46th in the nation - for overall child well-being, according to the annual KIDS COUNT Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, just out today.

The report compares the data from 2010 to 2015 and says one in four Arizona children is growing up in poverty, more than before the recession.

However, Dana Wolfe Naimark, president and CEO of the Children's Action Alliance, points to one bright spot - the state's ranking for children who have gained health insurance.

"Our ranking improved from 47 in 2010, to 44 this year, and we have a lot more children covered," she says. "And that is thanks to Medicaid expansion and the marketplace coverage through the Affordable Care Act."

Eight percent of Arizona kids remain uninsured. Naimark expects the progress to speed up next year because these numbers don't yet reflect KidsCare - which was reinstated by the Legislature last fall and has already enrolled more than 20,000 children.

However, she warns that the gains could be wiped out if Congress passes the American Health Care Act, which calls for billions in cuts to Medicaid, or AHCCCS, as it is known here.

The Casey Foundation's Laura Speer, associate director for Policy Reform and Advocacy, says they've been gathering these data points for almost 30 years to help lawmakers make informed decisions. She adds that children's economic well-being is a major predictor of their success later in life.

"Economic stability for families is really important for kids' well-being," Speer says. "In looking at their long-term development, it's about having access to the basics for families, so that kids can focus on what they need to focus on, which is healthy development and going to school."

The report says Arizona also cut the number of teen births, going from a ranking of 39th in the country to 33rd. However, those gains could be at risk, since the Legislature's last-minute change to family-planning funds that cuts Planned Parenthood out of the equation.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - AZ