Policy Experts 'Look Under the Hood' for Child Well-Being in ND
Wednesday, June 14, 2023
An annual report measuring child well-being in the U.S. said several benchmarks have worsened. States like North Dakota fared better in the overall rankings, but a regional policy expert said there is still work to do.
The latest Kids Count Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation now includes firm data from post-pandemic years, giving policy groups and nonprofits a better sense of how childhood development was affected by the crisis.
Xanna Burg, director of Kids Count North Dakota, said the state ranks 11th in the U.S. for overall child well-being and 6th for economic factors, but many kids still live in struggling households.
"18,000 children in North Dakota still live in poverty," Burg pointed out. "That's still a lot of children and a lot of families that are struggling just to meet their basic needs."
Amid nationwide issues in finding affordable child care, Burg acknowledged North Dakota deserves credit for adding significant funding during this year's legislative session. Nationally, the Data Book cited worsening trends in reading and math scores, and for North Dakota, education is a trouble spot, ranking 35th among the states in this category.
Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said more attention also should be paid to the decline in the overall mental well-being of kids and young people. The U.S. Surgeon General has declared it an epidemic.
"It's important that we make sure that children and young people have the mental health supports that they need," Boissiere contended. "So that they continue to flourish, and so that they can become healthy and productive members of our society."
She added other health concerns include increases in children with obesity, as well as babies born at low birth weights. In North Dakota, nearly 30% of children and teens are considered overweight or obese.
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