(Go Upstate) – The recently released Kids Count report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranks South Carolina as 38th in the nation in overall child well-being, the highest ranking the state has ever achieved on this report.
The Palmetto State is ranked 41st in the nation in education, 34th in economic well-being, 36th in health, and 37th in family and community, which is a measure of the poverty rates of the neighborhoods where children live, the number of children in single-parent homes, and the number of teen births.
But within each of these rankings is a mix of points of improvement and decline. For example, while more of South Carolina’s teens are graduating high school on time (down 9 percent from 2010) and more fourth-graders are reading at grade level (down 1 percent from 2009), more eighth-graders are below grade-level proficiency in math (up 4 percent from 2009) and more children ages 3-4 aren’t in school (up 3 percent from 2009).
While the state still has a long ways to go, Sue Williams, CEO of Children’s Trust, a South Carolina-based child welfare organization, noted that it’s important to look at trends when considering this kind of information. And South Carolina is on an upward trajectory.
“We’re on a path to improve the lives of children in South Carolina, and we need to keep doing more,” Williams said. She said the state’s score on the Kids Count report has improved over the last four years — South Carolina is up four slots from its 2014 ranking — and while it may not seem like a huge jump, it is the culmination of years of slow but consistent and deliberate effort.
“We see that this is a long game,” said Neil Mellen, director of policy and advocacy at Children’s Trust.
For example, Mellen said one of the most troubling areas for child well-being in South Carolina is child and teen death, which is up slightly from 32 per 100,000 in 2010 to 33 per 100,000. Nationwide, it’s 26 per 100,000.
The Children’s Trust has learned from more localized reports that these are mainly vehicular deaths. One measure that has been taken to reduce child vehicular deaths in South Carolina is the passing of new child safety seat laws, which require children to remain in a rear-facing car seat until age 2 and remain in the backseat until age 8. Those laws, which passed in 2017, are according to Mellen among the most stringent in the nation.
But policy isn’t enough, Mellen said.
He noted that while passing new laws is difficult, implementation is much harder. He said one of the next steps for child car safety will be encouraging adoption of these new policies by parents, which is done through education.
There is still plenty of room for improvement in the next five years, Williams said, particularly in regard to education and teen death.
“You look at the data (and) dig into where you can be most effective,” Williams said.
Source: Go Upstate