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WV Kids Count Shows Education, Economic Gains Worrying Trends

West Virginia has one of the nation's highest rates of children with access to health care. (Pixabay)
West Virginia has one of the nation's highest rates of children with access to health care. (Pixabay)
June 27, 2018

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia children have seen some progress in economic and especially in education indicators, according to the latest KIDS COUNT Data Book.

There are better numbers since 2010 in teen births, family housing costs and the percent of teens not in school or work.

Observers tie some of this to a better economy.

But Stephen Smith, director of the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition, says parents are also getting better organized at the Legislature.

"Over the last five or 10 years, children and families themselves involved in the political process,” he states. “And as a result you do see advances in expanding school breakfast programs, fighting for and achieving raising the minimum wage."

The data book reports better education numbers for the state, but also worse numbers for single parent families and children living in high poverty neighborhoods.

Kids Count ranks West Virginia at 40th overall.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation puts out Kids Count. Laura Speer, the foundation’s associate director for policy reform and advocacy, says the organization is worried about the upcoming census.

She says hundreds of federal programs use census data to allocate hundreds of billions of dollars a year.

Speer says more and more young children have been missed by the census each time over the last 40 years.

"All people, including kids, have the right to be counted and represented,” she stresses. “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."

Speer says the 2020 census outreach faces challenges from a lack of leadership, a first ever-digital survey, and the possible lowered participation due to a citizenship question.

She says this is likely to land hardest on poor and minority communities.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV