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Tribal advocates keep up legal pressure for fair political maps; 12-member jury sworn in for Trump's historic criminal trial; the importance of healthcare decision planning; and a debt dilemma: poll shows how many people wrestle with college costs.

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Civil rights activists say a court ruling could end the right to protest in three southern states, a federal judge lets January 6th lawsuits proceed against former President Trump, and police arrest dozens at a Columbia University Gaza protest.

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Rural Wyoming needs more vocational teachers to sustain its workforce pipeline, Ohio environmental advocates fear harm from a proposal to open 40-thousand forest acres to fracking and rural communities build bike trail systems to promote nature, boost the economy.

Report: Black births more likely to be premature in AR

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Friday, January 12, 2024   

Arkansas ranks near the bottom among states in the latest Annie E. Casey Foundation report on children's well-being.

"Race for Results" focuses on children's chances for success by race, from birth to career path. On a scale of 1,000 points, the national result for Black children is 386 -- but in Arkansas, it's 299.

Maricella Garcia, race equity director of advocacy for Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, said one concern is the percentage of low-birthweight children -- 9.5% of all Arkansas births, but 17% of births to Black mothers.

"When you're talking about low birthweight, that also causes a risk for infant mortality," she said. "When we're talking about infant mortality, that is from birth through the first year -- and that's because of those complications that can arise when a baby is born too early."

Premature birth correlates to a number of health and developmental issues. The report is a snapshot of 12 indicators of kids' well-being. On the 1,000-point scale, Hispanic children in Arkansas scored 397 and white children 597.

Garcia insisted that it's important to get pregnant people faster access to Medicaid by implementing what's known as "presumptive eligibility." At times, she said, the state's Medicaid application backlog has been 50,000 cases or more, and a pregnancy doesn't move anyone to the top of the list. She said changing that could mean more prenatal care for moms at risk.

"What presumptive eligibility does when you're pregnant -- you apply, and you will immediately get your Medicaid access, so that you can go to the doctor and get appointments, and be seen and make sure that everything's going along well in the pregnancy," she said. "And meanwhile, they're still going to process your application."

Leslie Boissiere, vice president for external affairs at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said states with a higher-than-average poverty rate must continue to invest in families' financial stability and child development. One recommendation in the report is to, once again, expand the Child Tax Credit.

"We saw during the pandemic era that the expanded Child Tax Credit lifted millions of children out of poverty - over 800,000 Black kids, over a million Latino kids and over 700,000 white kids lifted out of poverty by this single program," she said. "When the program wasn't extended, millions of children then fell back into poverty."

She said the $3,000 tax credit makes a significant difference for low-income kids and families. She hopes the "Race for Results" report prompts better understanding of the needs of each group, so states can address their specific barriers.

Disclosure: Annie E Casey Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Education, Juvenile Justice, Welfare Reform. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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