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New Hampshire Tops Nat'l. List for Child Well-being

New Hampshire ranked fourth in education, but 10th in the nation for the number of 3- and4-year-olds not attending school. (YouTube/happygj79)
New Hampshire ranked fourth in education, but 10th in the nation for the number of 3- and
4-year-olds not attending school. (YouTube/happygj79)
June 17, 2019

CONCORD, N.H. -– A new report ranks New Hampshire number one in overall child well-being, but advocates for kids and families say it's no time to be complacent as there's room for improvement.

The new Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count Data Book showed while the state ranks second in the nation for health and fourth for education, its ranking for economic well-being dropped from third to 10th. Rebecca Woitkowski, early childhood policy coordinator with the nonprofit New Futures, said many residents hit hardest by economic factors live in rural areas, which lack access to jobs and community services.

"Primarily this is a difference between rural and urban areas in our state,” Woitkowski said. “Family support services, like home visiting and other services offered at family resource centers, are proven to mitigate adverse childhood experiences and help children's brains develop on track and set up kids for success later in life."

She said the legislature has laid some groundwork to improve access to services around the state, but more could be done to address these disparities. The report said about 26,000 New Hampshire children live in poverty.

New Hampshire also has one of the highest rates of opioid abuse in the country, and Woikowski said tackling that crisis is crucial to ensuring children's health and well-being.

"New Hampshire has some particular challenges with our child protection, mental health and substance-use crises that have affected our state over the last five years, in that this has really changed the call to action,” she said.

The report said about 1-in-4 children in the state has parents who lack secure employment, and 1-in-5 lives in a household that has to spend too much of its income on housing.

Only half of New Hampshire's three- and four-year-olds who are eligible for preschool are enrolled, and the state doesn't fund preschool for all. The Casey Foundation's Leslie Boissiere said states need to look critically at their budget priorities to ensure equal access to these types of services for children of all backgrounds.

"Are we fully funding public education, and are we doing it in a way that's equitable across all communities and neighborhoods?” Boissiere asked. “Have we expanded Medicaid? Are states making health care and health insurance available to all families?"

The report suggested one way to ensure these needs are being met is to increase efforts to count everyone in the 2020 census, including kids under age five and people living in hard-to-reach communities.

Disclosure: Annie E Casey Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Criminal Justice, Early Childhood Education, Education, Juvenile Justice, Welfare Reform. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Jenn Stanley, Public News Service - NH