Report: Arkansas Ranks 43rd in Child Well-Being
Thursday, June 15, 2023
A new report found Arkansas consistently ranks toward the lowest 10 states for child well-being.
The annual Kids Count Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation measures states in four areas: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. In this year's analysis, Arkansas ranks 43rd overall.
Keesa Smith, executive director of the group Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, said poverty remains a pressing issue in the Natural State. It ranks 40th among the states for families' economic well-being, with 22% of Arkansas children living in poverty.
"We have not put the necessary efforts into moving children out of high-level poverty," Smith contended. "That just still reinforces that our children are living in a state that they are not being able to thrive."
Smith recommended Arkansas implement comprehensive policies to help bring children out of poverty and ensure all kids have access to the resources necessary for their well-being and healthy development.
Smith emphasized schooling is another area of concern. The Data Book ranked Arkansas 37th in the nation for education, and said 56% of young children are not in preschool programs to help get them ready for school.
"According to the report, right now, we have 43,000 children, age three and four, that are not receiving any type of early childhood education," Smith explained. "We know that early childhood education is the foundation."
Smith noted coming out of the pandemic, families are struggling to access child care, especially for younger children. She added many child care facilities don't accept infants, and if they do, the cost is not affordable for families.
Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, noted across the board, the report reflects disparities for kids of color. She said in the area of family economic opportunity, Latino and Black families face a much higher cost burden.
"Significant work that we need to do to make sure that all kids -- no matter where they are born, or no matter what their race or ethnicity -- have equal access to opportunity," Boissiere emphasized. "Particularly at the young, formative stages of their lives."
She pointed to another troubling trend: The rate of child deaths per 100,000 is nearly double for Black families than overall. She added the increase is primarily a combination of suicide and firearm deaths.
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