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Maine Trails Other New England States in Children’s Well-Being

The percentage of children in Maine without health insurance has increased since 2010. (pxhere)
The percentage of children in Maine without health insurance has increased since 2010. (pxhere)
June 27, 2018

AUGUSTA, Maine – The latest figures on the well being of children show Maine ranks 16th in the nation, and children's advocates fear trouble ahead.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation's 2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book says Maine showed improvement in 12 of 16 categories covering economic well being, education, health and family and community.

But the state is still far behind New Hampshire and Massachusetts, ranked first and second.

Laura Speer, the foundation's associate director for policy reform and advocacy, is concerned that including a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. Census will discourage immigrants from participating and lead to an under count of young people, endangering federal funding of programs affecting children.

"All people, including kids, have the right to be counted and represented,” she states. “But without any real political or economic power, kids rely on adults to protect and advocate for them, and they can't fill out the census forms."

Census figures are used to determine levels of federal support for child-focused programs, including school lunches and children's health insurance.

The federal programs are especially important to children living in low-income families.

According to Claire Berkowitz, executive director of the Maine Children's Alliance, the data shows that's an area where Maine needs to make progress.

"Thirty percent of our children live in households where a parent lacks secure employment,” she states. “Nationally, that's 28 percent, so we're behind a bit in that indicator."

Berkowitz adds that 5 percent of children in the state have no health insurance, compared with a national average of 4 percent.

Speer says with more than 14 million children living in poverty nationwide, including more than 40,000 in Maine, getting the census numbers right is critical.

"We want to do right by all kids and make sure that they have strong families, strong communities and the opportunities that will help them to thrive,” she states. “And many of the trends that we're seeing are really good. But there's still a lot of work to do."

Speer points out the undercount of children nationally has worsened with every census since 1980.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - ME