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NH Tops for Children’s Well-Being, but Census Change Raises Concerns

Eight percent of children in New Hampshire live in poverty, well below the national average of 19 percent. (pxhere)
Eight percent of children in New Hampshire live in poverty, well below the national average of 19 percent. (pxhere)
June 27, 2018

CONCORD, N. H. – The latest figures on the well-being of children show New Hampshire is number one in the country, but some children's advocates fear trouble ahead.

In the Annie E. Casey Foundation's 2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book, the Granite State showed improvement in 11 of 16 categories covering economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.

But 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 increase the persistent under-count of young children, endangering federal funding of programs affecting children.

"All people, including kids, have the right to be counted and represented," Speer insisted. "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, from school lunches to children's health insurance. The federal programs are especially important to kids living in low-income families.

According to Jake Berry, vice president for policy at New Futures, a nonpartisan health-policy organization, taking care of children's needs is a top priority for the state.

"Here in New Hampshire, we really take a lot of pride, make a lot of investment, in the well-being of our children," Berry said. "That goes from our health systems to our education systems, to our overall community supports."

Eight percent of New Hampshire children live in poverty, far below the national average of 19 percent.

Speer pointed out that federal dollars linked to census data are key to programs, from Head Start to special education, to child care. So, an accurate count will be critical to every state.

"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 said. "And many of the trends that we're seeing are really good. But there's still a lot of work to do."

She added that the under-count of children nationally has worsened with every census since 1980.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NH