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Virginia Shows Slow Progress on Kids' Economic Stability


Thursday, August 11, 2022   

For the second consecutive year, Virginia ranks 13th in an annual snapshot of child well-being.

In the new 2022 Kids Count Data Book, the state improved in 11 of 16 indicators of how children and families are faring, including a drop in child poverty.

Lauren Snellings, research director at Voices for Virginia's Children, said it is a step in the right direction but noted progress is slow.

"It looks great on paper but those improvements have been so minimal," Snellings contended. "We're talking about 15% between 2008 and 2012 to 13%. And that's still almost 250,000 children living in poverty."

Snellings pointed out Virginia is well-positioned to help families gain economic security by continuing to support and expand policies such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, as well as policies to ensure equitable access to child care, health care and affordable housing.

Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, explained kids who grow up in poverty or without having their basic needs met experience more stress.

"There's a direct correlation between trauma and stress and poverty," Boissiere noted. "We know that the financial hardships that families experience, lack of access to basic needs, like nutrition and health care, has a direct impact on the well-being of kids."

This year's Data Book specifically highlights the mental-health challenges of children and teens, which rose 26% between 2016 and 2020. In Virginia, about 10% of youths struggle with anxiety or depression.

"Mental-health concerns among youth and young adults were increasing before the pandemic, and the pandemic only exacerbated what was already there," Boissiere emphasized. "We see increased rates of anxiety and depression, we see increased rates of suicide."

The report showed more counselors in schools are needed to address the growing numbers, as well as ensuring kids have affordable health coverage to get mental-health care.

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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