National trends in child well-being
May 25, 2015 0 Comments
The Anne E. Casey Foundation is a philanthropic organization devoted to improving the welfare of children. Last year, the foundation issued the 25th edition of its KIDS COUNT Data Book.
The purpose of the book is straightforward and is summed up in the Foreword: “As a nation, we are obsessed with data and indicators when it comes to the economy. We track the gross domestic product, the Consumer Price Index, unemployment, inventories, housing starts, interest rates and so on. We monitor these numbers because they are critical to understanding where our economy is heading, and because we want to be able to respond forcefully if the numbers signal developing problems. We should be equally, if not more, concerned about the data that tell us how our children are doing: The well being of our country’s children is the most important indicator of our long-term economic and social future.”
Under the Trends section, the authors list national trends in 16 key indicators of child well-being grouped by domain. These domains include Economic Well-Being, Education, Health and Family and Community. Each domain includes four indicators.
The good, the bad and the so-so
Of the four domains, economic well-being showed the least improvement over prior study years. The domain’s four indicators–children in poverty, children whose parents lack secure employment, children living in households with a high housing cost burden, teens not in school and not working–either worsened or were unchanged. For example, in 2005, 19 percent of children lived in poverty. In 2012, around 23 percent or more than 16 million lived in poverty. In 2008, 27 percent of children had a parent or parents who lacked secure employment. This number increased to 31 percent in 2012. As of 2012, 1.4 million teens were not in school and not working. This number is unchanged from 2008 which is hardly a comfort.
On a happier note, education showed improvement, albeit marginally, across all four of its indicators. In the years 2005 – 2007, more than half of preschool-aged children were not enrolled. This number dropped 2 percent from 2010 – 2012. In 2005, 70 percent of fourth graders were not proficient in reading. This percentage dropped to 66 percent in 2013. Up to 72 percent of eighth graders displayed a lack of proficiency in math in 2005. In 2013, this number improved to 66 percent. In the years 2005-06, 27 percent of high school students failed to graduate on time but by 2011-12, this number improved to 19 percent.
Since 2005, children’s health has improved. In 2005, 8.2 percent of newborns were classified as low-birth weight babies. In 2012, this number decreased to 8 percent. In 2008, a staggering 10 percent of children in the U.S. did not have health insurance. In 2012, this number decreased to 7 percent. However, a 2012 CNN Politics report indicated 15.4 percent of children living in poverty were also uninsured. In 2005, there were 32 child and teen deaths per 100,000. In 2010, this number decreased to 26 deaths per 100,000. Six percent of teens admitted to abusing drugs or alcohol in 2005- 2006. This percentage rose slightly to 8 percent in 2011- 2012.
The results for the Family and Community domain were a mixed bag. Two economic indicators improved and two worsened. In 2005, 16 percent of children lived in families where the head of household did not have a high school diploma. In 2012, this number decreased to 15 percent of children. Under the teen births indicator, there were 29 per 1000 teen births in 2012. This is a significant improvement over the 40 per 1000 recorded in 2005. Sadly, the number of children living in single-parent families has increased. In 2005, 32 percent of children lived in a single-parent household. In 2012, this number increased to 35 percent.
Reversing the tide
Nothing has been as divisive to American society in the past two years as the Affordable Care Act also known as Obamacare to its detractors. But for all of its shortcomings, the program is showing results. As of October 2014, a year after the program was implemented, the number of Americans without health insurance has decreased by 25 percent. The law also states that any person under 19 with a pre-existing condition cannot be denied medical coverage.
At a more grassroots level, parents who see their children slipping through the cracks or falling prey to the myriad of problems poverty presents, should consider mentoring. Mentors can have an incredible impact on a child’s life. Children in single-parent households are more at risk to drop out of school than children living in homes where both parents are present and, while mentors cannot take the place of a parent, they can provide guidance, support and structure in a child’s life.
White River Academy is a residential boarding school located in Delta, Utah. White River focuses on treating young men with addictions and mental health disorders or a combination of both. To learn more about our programs or our curriculum, you can call us at 866-520-0905 to speak to a member of our team.