South Carolina ranks near the bottom – 43rd among the 50 states – in a ranking of children’s well being.
That is according to the newly released Kids Count report, a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, that assesses the overall health of the nation’s children, including their economic health, family situation and education.
The most-troubling S.C. finding is the number of children living in poverty. According to the new report, the state has experienced:
• A 23 percent increase in children whose parents lacked secure employment from 2005 to 2010.
• A 13 percent increase in children living in poverty from 2008 to 2010.
For a S.C. family of four, poverty is defined as a household income of $23,050 or less.
On average, families need incomes at twice the poverty level – $46,100 – to cover normal expenses, such as food, housing, child care and transportation, according to the Children’s Trust of South Carolina, the S.C. affiliate of Kids Count.
In South Carolina, one of every two children lives below that threshold.
Much of the blame is the still-sour economy.
“It’s affecting us in South Carolina and all of the other states,” said Bett Williams, spokeswoman for the Children’s Trust.
The report also finds bright spots for the state’s kids in education and health.
The report found a 31 percent decrease in children without health insurance, a 25 percent decrease in teens who abuse alcohol or drugs, and a 15 percent decrease in child and teen deaths in recent years.
For the first time, this year’s report reviewed the number of children not attending preschool.
Fifty-four percent of S.C. preschool-age children do not attend preschool in 2010 – an eight percent decrease from 2008.
“More parents are realizing the importance of preschool and making it a priority for their children,” Williams said.
The number of children without private health insurance or Medicaid coverage dropped 31 percent from 2008 to 2010. The latest statistics show only 9 percent of children not covered.
That aligns with data from the state Department of Health and Human Service that shows more S.C. kids on the rolls of Medicaid, the taxpayer program that provides health care to the poor.
There is still much work to do.
“As 43rd in the nation, we still have much room for improvement and these numbers should not give us a false sense of success. There are far too many children and their futures at risk,” said Sue Williams, CEO of the Children’s Trust, in a statement.