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NH Ranks High in Child Well-Being, But Pandemic May Disrupt Gains


Wednesday, June 23, 2021   

CONCORD, N.H. -- New Hampshire ranks in the top 10 for overall child wellbeing, but advocates for children and families say that doesn't diminish the importance of continued investments, especially as the state recovers from the pandemic.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count Data Book finds only 7% of New Hampshire kids were living in poverty prior to the pandemic.

Rebecca Woitkowski, Kids Count policy coordinator for the nonprofit New Futures, said since then, many more children and families have struggled with disruptions to school and work and mental-health challenges.

"Simply returning to what we were doing pre-pandemic, that level of support for children and families shortchanges Granite State kids and fails to address persistent racial and ethnic disparities," Woitkowski asserted.

According to a Census Bureau national survey, since the pandemic, Black and Latino households with children have reported far more concerns than white households on issues ranging from mental health and access to health insurance, to ability to pay their rent or mortgage on time and put food on the table.

More than 20% of New Hampshire adults with children reported feeling "down, depressed or hopeless," and Woitkowski noted not all families have access to mental-health services to help deal with pandemic-related trauma.

"This is really troubling," Woitkowski remarked. "I think now more than ever, equitable health and economic supports are needed to help Granite State families thrive."

The American Rescue Plan includes expanding the Child Tax Credit, from $2,000 a year to $3,600 per child.

Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs for the Foundation, urged policymakers to make the expansion permanent, adding children who grow up in poverty often have worse health outcomes.

"They live in substandard housing that has issues like mold and lead that go untreated," Boissiere explained. "Lower-income families live in poorer neighborhoods that have poorer-resourced schools, so their education outcomes tend to be worse."

Even before COVID-19 disrupted education, the report said 12% of New Hampshire high school students weren't graduating on time; and last fall, people in nearly 40% of the state's families who had planned to pursue higher education either canceled those plans or reduced their class load.

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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