By KATIE DONALDSON
Out of the 50 states, Tennessee ranks 36 for overall child well-being, three spots higher than last year, according to the “2012 Kids Count Data Book.”
The report, released today, is used to show trends in child health and well-being for the country and each state.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation, a private organization that aims to create better futures for children in the U.S., started making the books in 1990. The foundation used a new approach to analyze and gather information on child development for the current data book.
“This year’s findings reveal signs of hope in the midst of tough economic times for millions of families across the country,” said Patrick McCarthy, the Casey Foundation’s president and CEO.
For this year’s book, the foundation chose 16 indicators of child well-being, which are organized into four different catagories: economic well-being, education, health and family and community. It uses the categories that connect most to long term success for children to determine the rankings.
“The data reveal that there is still much to be done to improve the prospects for the next generation,” said Laura Speer, the Casey Foundation’s associate director for policy reform and data. “They also show that a child’s success depends not only on individual, family and community resources, but also on the state where he or she grows up.”
According to the report, states in the Southeast, Southwest and Appalachia area, where the poorest states are located, usually take up the bottom of the overall rankings. Tennessee ranked better than most Southern states.
Alabama ranked 45, Georgia landed at 37 and Mississippi sat at 50.
“Good public policies in Tennessee have contributed to Tennessee’s continually improved rankings,” said Linda O’Neal, Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth executive director. “Investing in Tennessee’s children improves their opportunities to be safe, healthy, educated, supported and nurtured, and engaged in activities that help them succeed in school and become productive adults.”
Tennessee ranked 38 in economic well-being, 42 in education, 16 in health and 39 in family and community.
Tennessee’s health domain helped raise its ranking. The new research relied on health status instead of primary mortality.
For the 2011 fiscal year, TennCare put $207 million toward mental and behavioral health services for children.
Despite the increased improvements in health, Tennessee’s economic and education domains remain low. According to “Kids Count: The State of the Child in Tennessee 2011,” one in every four children lives in poverty.
The Kids Count data center also showed 74 percent of fourth graders scored below proficient for reading achievement tests in 2011.
Out of Tennessee’s 95 counties, Obion County ranked 34 in 2009 for the amount of children living in poverty. Dyer came in at 72, Gibson was 26, Lake was 94 and Weakley landed at 38.
In 2009, Obion also ranked 37 for the amount of students who drop out of high school before graduating. Dyer and Weakley tied at 43, Gibson ranked 28 and Lake landed at 84.
The state and counties gained a better health ranking, but the economic and education areas need work before a vast improvement in the overall ranking is seen.
More specific state information is available in “Kids Count: The State of the Child in Tennessee 2011,” published by the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth. It is available online at www.tn.gov/tccy/kc-soc11.pdf.
To view data for different states or compare different states’ data, go to datacenter.kidscount.org.
Published in The Messenger 7.25.12