Despite economic gains for Indiana kids, Tami Silverman believes the state still has work to do.
Indiana ranked 28th in the nation for child well-being, according to the national 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book, released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The annual data book measures child well-being in four areas: family and community; economic; education; and health. These represent what children need most to thrive, according to officials.
New Hampshire ranked first overall in data, with Mississippi finishing last.
In the past year, Indiana jumped five spots — to 19 — for improving child economic well-being, finishing with the highest ranking compared to neighboring states. In the same category, Illinois ranked 25th and Kentucky 39th.
“Indiana’s leaders must continue to focus on improving all aspects of our children’s education, health, economic, and family and community situations,” Silverman said in a statement. “We must ensure we are meeting the needs of the whole child, and giving all Hoosier children the opportunity to reach their full potential, regardless of their circumstances.”
Silverman, Indiana Youth Institute president and CEO, said the state continues to struggle with children living in high-poverty areas, which 13 percent currently do. That represents more than 200,000 kids, Silverman said, and is an 18 percent increase compared to 2008-12 data.
“Research shows that children living in high-poverty areas are at greater risk for adverse experiences and have fewer educational opportunities,” she said. “This combination of factors limits their chances to succeed in adulthood.”
In addition to the economic ranking, Indiana ranked 31st overall in the family and community category, 35th in health and 14th in education.
Teresa Meredith, Indiana State Teachers Association president, said the data show educators where Indiana compares to other states in how kids are supported and the types of available programming. Meredith said it’s also helpful for grant writing.
“Sometimes we feel like, when we’re in the classroom, we’re on this island alone. … But when we look at this data, we can see that we weren’t alone,” she said.
Compared to 2010, the data book shows fewer Hoosier kids living in poverty, at 21 percent; fewer uninsured Hoosier kids, at 7 percent in 2015 compared to 9 percent in 2010; and fewer Indiana teens abusing drugs and alcohol, from 7 percent in 2010 to 5 percent in 2014.
Indiana students appear to be struggling in some educational areas. Sixtyone percent of Hoosier eighth-graders are not proficient in math and 60 percent of fourth-graders are not proficient in reading.
“That shouldn’t be OK just because we’re above the national average,” Meredith said.
Indiana ranked 37th in the nation for child and teen death rate, which increased by 11 percent from 2010-15. The Indiana State Department of Health annual mortality reports show a consistent increase across several categories, including homicide and suicide. Accidental deaths declined from 201015 .
Indiana Youth Institute is a nonprofit aimed to promote healthy development of Hoosier youth.