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UT Excels in Child Well-Being, But Parents Struggle with Child Care Costs

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Thursday, June 15, 2023   

Utah ranks second in the country for overall child well-being, moving up from last year's fourth-place ranking in the annual Kids Count Data Book.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation looks at how children and families are faring across the nation.

Martín Muñoz, Kids Count director for the group Voices for Utah Children, said while Utah scored well across the board in this year's Data Book, lack of affordable and accessible child care is making it difficult for parents. Many have to miss work or even resign, and those who do find care pay a hefty price. Utahns live in what he called a "child care desert."

"The State of Utah spends about 1% of state funds on early childhood education for children under six, and you know, Utah's child care system currently only meets about 35% of the state's needs," Muñoz explained. "We definitely can do a lot better when it comes to child care."

Muñoz added the state budget is a reflection of the state's priorities. He argued Utah must commit to investing in early learning to help solve the child care crisis and strengthen the workforce.

While the Beehive State ranked second overall, it ranked first in family and community factors, but sixth in education and 18th in the category of health.

Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said children nationwide have better access to health care, due in part to policies put in place during the pandemic. The Data Book said 5% of U.S. children have no health insurance, compared to 6% in 2019.

Boissiere pointed out the death rate for kids in 2021 was the highest since 2007.

"It's very concerning that we've seen an increase in the number of deaths of children and young people," Boissiere noted. "The primary cause, unfortunately, is suicide and gunshot wounds."

She added it underscores the need for mental-health resources for children. According to the report, Native American children were more than twice as likely to lack health insurance and almost three times as likely to live in neighborhoods with more limited resources than the average child.

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


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