Children’s Trust CEO Sue Williams had this editorial published June 28 in The State. It explains how child advocates must keep working hard to implement proven prevention programs in order to continue the progress South Carolina has made in recent years in the KIDS COUNT national rankings on child well-being.

This week’s news that South Carolina has moved up to No. 41 in the annual KIDS COUNT Data Book rankings, the highest ranking for the state in child well-being in more than 27 years of data collection, isn’t cause for a huge celebration.

But this development can be viewed as a very positive step.

South Carolina made progress for the second consecutive year, and this best-ever ranking also has the state on the cusp of escaping the bottom 10 and child advocates envisioning a jump into the 30s. That might not seem like a big deal, but after spending most of the last three decades mired into the mid-to-low 40s for child well-being, this upward climb is most definitely the direction we want to go.

The 2016 KIDS COUNT Data Book

The 2016 KIDS COUNT Data Book

Children’s Trust, a statewide organization dedicated to the prevention of child abuse, neglect and injury, has worked tirelessly alongside governmental agencies, other state organizations, and local child-serving partners across South Carolina to protect children, strengthen families, and address racial and ethnic disparities in economics, education and health.

All of us know it’s not going to be easy, but we are committed to continuing this steady progress through a combination of partnerships, proven prevention programs, research and evaluation, sound policy, community outreach and professional training.

We know what is holding our state back. Too many children aren’t enrolled in pre-K. Too many children aren’t proficient in reading and math. Too many children live in poverty. Too many children are involved in founded investigations of abuse and neglect. Too many children are dying because of accidents related to improperly-installed car seats, unsafe infant sleep and drowning.

Working toward solutions involves collaboration in many different ways. No single organization can do it alone, and it’s imperative that we find the collective will to push for initiatives that can make a difference.

Children’s Trust teamed up with the Institute for Child Success and the United Way Association of South Carolina to promote the Early Childhood Common Agenda. It offers a framework for policymakers to support quality early care and economic stability for working families, including access to affordable child care and creation of a state earned income tax credit.

The time is here for everyone in our state to build on the momentum seen with this latest KIDS COUNT ranking. We know we can do better. We understand that we must do better.

This isn’t simply about improving a ranking. It’s about making this state a place where all of our children can thrive, have equal opportunities to succeed, and lead happy, healthy lives on their way to being productive citizens.