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Utah Ranks 4th Among States in Survey on Children's Well-Being

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Wednesday, August 10, 2022   

An annual report on children's well-being rates Utah among the best in the country, but advocates warn it also pointed to a growing mental-health crisis.

The 2022 Kids Count Data Book compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranks Utah 4th among the 50 states, appearing in the Top Ten 10 in all four major categories.

Martin Muñoz, Kids Count director at Voices for Utah Children, said there was an overall 26% increase in mental-health issues from 2016 to 2020, and the numbers increase substantially in communities of color, and especially among LGBTQ children.

"Within our LGBTQ community, facing policies to put them in a place that may make them feel that they are not part of society, that's very concerning," Muñoz pointed out. "We need to really step back and see how children are being affected."

Muñoz noted the survey ranked Utah 1st in indicators of strong family and community, 6th for economic well-being, and 10th for both health and education. He added while the rankings were good, Utah lawmakers need to do more to help children, by spending part of the state budget surplus on more mental and behavioral health care.

Muñoz believes one area where Utah could improve is by developing special programs to help students who fell behind during the pandemic. He argued too few are graduating with their class.

"We did better overall, but then also high school graduation, graduating on time, we're still struggling, especially those who face challenges with disabilities," Muñoz emphasized. "We need to make sure all of our students are graduating on time."

Though the rates have fallen, more than 90,000 Utah kids still live below the poverty line.

Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said the federal government has offered supports to help families, such as additional food assistance during the pandemic, but noted the help is likely to expire soon.

"It's incredibly important that decision makers seize the opportunity and the lessons learned during the COVID-19 period, when more resources were provided to families," Boissiere urged. "So that we can make sure that every child has their basic needs met - that fewer children live in poverty, and that the overall well-being of children in this country increases."

Disclosure: The 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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