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On the Right Path, ND Still Missing Key Components for Children

North Dakota is lagging behind other states on many education markers. (minnemom/Flickr)
North Dakota is lagging behind other states on many education markers. (minnemom/Flickr)
June 17, 2019

BISMARCK, N.D. – North Dakota fares well in an annual analysis of child well-being, ranking 11th overall.

But one state expert says the high ranking could hide some of the ways in which the state's children are struggling.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation's 2019 KIDS COUNT Data Book measures how children are doing in four categories: economic well-being, education, health and family and community.

The state ranks best for economic well-being. However, North Dakota KIDS COUNT Program Director Karen Olson says statewide figures can mask what's happening on a local level or in certain populations.

"For example, while we have the second-lowest child poverty rate among states, there are nearly 20,000 children in North Dakota living in families that are struggling every day, who don't earn enough money to put food on the table, pay for health care, transportation, rent, mortgage, clothing," she states.

Olson also notes North Dakota ranks 35th in education and has the highest percentage in the nation of children ages three and four who are not in school. Olson says supporting early childhood education is a critical long-term investment the state needs to make.

North Dakota also was one of only three states in which the uninsured rate for children rose between 2010 and 2017.

With the 2020 Census around the corner, Leslie Boissiere, the Casey Foundation’s vice president of external affairs, notes it's critical to get an accurate count of the country's children.

She points out the 2010 Census missed more than 2 million children under the age of five and the upcoming count could miss more if children are not a priority.

"The future of our children, the future of our communities, the strength of our country is really tied on the ability to ensure that the census count is accurate and to ensure that states and communities get the resources that they need to invest in the well-being of their families," she says.

States rely on accurate counts for more than $880 billion in funding to 55 major federal programs. North Dakota receives about $1.4 billion each year from these programs, with more than $330 million going directly to programs that affect children.

North Dakota has a census task force to ensure that people living in hard-to-count areas, including about 4,000 children, are counted.

Disclosure: Annie E Casey Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Education, Juvenile Justice, Welfare Reform. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND