Editorial: State making progress in children’s well-being

Louisiana moved up to its best ranking — 46th out of the 50 states — in an annual report on children’s well-being.

Just two years ago, the state

ranked dead last in the Kids Count report funded by the Annie E. Casey

Foundation. The Baltimore-based

group charts government statistics on four quality-of-life

categories: economic well-being, education, health, and family

and community.

Louisiana improved in 11 out of 16 indicators to pull ahead of Arizona, Nevada, Mississippi and New Mexico.

The state saw improvement

in all four indicators in both the education and health categories

and three of the four categories in family and community.

“Building a bright future for

Louisiana’s children is critical to our state’s future success,” said

Anthony Recasner, CEO

of Agenda for Children. “The KIDS COUNT Data Book shows that while

many of the investments we’ve made in children are paying

off, we still have a long way to go if we want Louisiana’s

children to have the same opportunities as children in the best-ranked

states.”

Among the report’s findings:

Louisiana outperformed the national average on three measures — uninsured children, teens who abuse drugs or alcohol, and

children ages 3 and 4 who are not enrolled in preschool.

In 2010/2011, 6 percent of Louisiana teens age 12-17 abused drugs or alcohol, a rate below the national average of 7 percent.

Louisiana was one of four states in which the percentage of children

who live in high-poverty neighborhoods actually declined

between 2000 and 2011. Despite the improvement, 17 percent of

Louisiana children lived in high-poverty neighborhoods in 2007-2011,

ranking the state 46th on this measure.

The news wasn’t all rosy. The state

declined in all four measures of children's economic well-being.

Louisiana ranked 48th

in children living in poverty, and 35 percent of Louisiana

children lived in families where no parent had a full-time, year-round

job in 2011. Additionally, 12 percent of all teenagers in

Louisiana were not in school and not working.

“Every child deserves the

opportunity to grow up healthy, well-educated and in a safe, supportive

environment,” Recasner said.

“While the Data Book makes it clear that Louisiana children

continue to face a number of challenges, it also shows that we

are moving in the right direction on many measures of child

well-being. If we want to see these trends continue, we must make

the kinds of smart investments in early childhood education,

health and economic security that can provide the foundation

for children’s lifelong success.”

Now that the state has broken out

of last place in this enlightening indicator, the goal should be steady,

quantifiable progress.

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.