Alabama slips to 46th nationally in child welfare report

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More than one in four Alabama children live in poverty, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation‘s 2016 Kids Count Data Book.

The Casey Foundation is a philanthropic organization focused on improving the well-being of American children. The study ranks child welfare by evaluating data across four areas: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. The data book focuses on trends over the six-year period from 2008 to 2014 to give each state a composite score.

The well-respected annual report, released Tuesday, shows Alabama slipping to 46th in a national ranking of the top states to be a child. That’s one spot worse than 2015’s 45th ranking, making it the second year in a row the state has seen its overall national ranking drop.

Here’s how Alabama ranks across the four categories:

  • Overall rank: 46th
  • Economic well-being rank: 46th
  • Education rank: 48th
  • Health rank: 42nd
  • Family and community rank: 43rd

The report found “unacceptable levels of childhood poverty, an increasing number of children in single-parent families and a rising number of children who lived in high-poverty neighborhoods, which pose risks to children and are associated with diminished prospects later in life.”

“While we are certainly pleased to see progress in some of the Kids Count Data Book indicators over the last six years, it is hard to applaud where we stand relative to the rest of the country,” said Melanie Bridgeforth, executive director of VOICES for Alabama’s Children, in a news release. “In order to improve our state standing, we must look beyond the rankings and study the story behind the numbers.”

Those numbers included a 37 percent decrease in teen pregnancy rates since 2008, while the percentage of Alabama children who live in families where the head of household lacks a high school diploma fell by 13 percent.

But there were also stark reminders of the work that remains for child welfare advocates: the study found no change or worsening results in all four economic measurements, including childhood poverty (up 27 percent), percentage of children whose parents lack steady jobs (up 13 percent), percentage of children living in households with a difficult time paying the rent or mortgage (up about 30 percent).

The rate of teens neither working nor in school remained unchanged, while the percentage of children living in high-poverty areas also grew by 31 percent compared to 2006-2010 and the percentage of children living in single-parent families increased by 11 percent compared to 2008.

“Alabama leaders have begun taking steps to improve our children’s educational outcomes, but the results will take time before we start to see our test numbers come up,” Bridgeforth continued. “The Kids Count Data Book demonstrates how important it is for Alabama to stay the course with its College- and Career-Ready Standards, and why we must continue to increase access to high-quality Pre-K classrooms. We will continue to work with state leaders to identify where they should focus their attention.”

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