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Kids in WA Doing Better Than Other States, But Disparities Remain

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Monday, June 21, 2021   

SEATTLE -- Washington state ranks high in a new report on child well-being, but the data hides some of the disparities that exist in the state.

The annual KIDS COUNT Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation looks at four categories: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. The report measured data before the pandemic in 2019, and ranks Washington 14th overall.

Dr. Stephan Blanford, executive director of the Children's Alliance, said children of color aren't faring as well.

"On almost every measure, Black and brown kids do less well, and those disparities should be of concern to all Washingtonians," Blanford asserted.

Blanford noted there are fewer children of color enrolled in early learning, for instance, which can affect their success in high school and later in life.

The state ranks fifth in the health category and Blanford applauded the state for its investment in keeping the number of uninsured children low, but pointed out racial disparities hide under the statistic as well.

According to the report, nearly 200,000 Washington children were living in poverty in 2019.

Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs for the Foundation, said growing up in poverty has long-lasting effects on kids, including more social-emotional challenges.

"The stress of financial challenges on children is huge, and it's significant," Boissiere contended. "And if you look over time, those same children when they grow to be adults tend to be in lower-wage jobs. And they also tend to be more reliant on government programs."

Washington lawmakers passed an important measure for children this session: the Fair Start for Kids Act, which will make child care more affordable for families.

Blanford emphasized the measure is good for all families, although the state will still need to figure out how to find enough child-care providers to make the law possible.

"Fair Start for Kids, I think, is a game-changer because it offers increased access for lots of kids that were on the margin," Blanford explained. "That's going to be a significant number of kids who will now have that access."

Disclosure: Annie E. Casey Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Criminal Justice, Early Childhood Education, Education, Juvenile Justice, and Welfare Reform. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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