By Jason Raven

Queen City News

COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) – According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2022 KIDS COUNT report, South Carolina moved up to 39th in child well-being.

In the 2020 and 2021 reports, South Carolina was ranked 41st.

The annual ranking in the Data Book uses four key indicators — economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.

Officials said all these factors help produce each state’s overall child well-being ranking.

Children’s Trust of South Carolina Senior Director of Policy & Advocacy Phillip Cease said the report is a tool for policymakers and state leaders.

“This gives you a 30,000-foot view, and you can see what other states are doing,” Cease said.

According to the report, teen births have decreased by 56% since 2010, and 42,000 fewer children live in high-poverty areas in South Carolina.

There are also more parents employed full time and more teens who are attending school or working.

There were slight increases in the state’s education and healthcare rankings compared to 2021.

This annual resource focuses on youth mental health for the first time, concurring with a recent public advisory by the U.S. surgeon general that current conditions amount to a “youth mental health pandemic.”

The Data Book showed a 26% increase in anxiety and depression reported nationally among children ages 3 to 17.

South Carolina is one of six states that saw an increase of more than 50% in children’s anxiety or depression from 2016 to 2020. Other states with significant increases include Alaska, Arkansas, California, Massachusetts, and South Dakota; the District of Columbia also saw such an increase.  

“The pandemic has taken a toll on everyone, and the heaviest burdens often fall on the shoulders of children who rely on others to meet their needs,” said Sue Williams, CEO of Children’s Trust, South Carolina’s member of the KIDS COUNT network. “We are in an ongoing emergency, and we need to invest in young people and families so they can navigate these challenges and recover stronger.”  

In addition, the child and teen death rates have increased by 13% in the past decade.

State lawmakers, agencies, and others are reviewing the state’s mental health services available in South Carolina schools.

There is also a state law on the books that requires the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and additional mental health resources to be printed on every school-issued ID from 7th grade and up.

Cease said it would take a lot of work for South Carolina to move even more in the state rankings, but it’s possible.

“It’s going to take a lot of buy-in from the legislature and leaders across South Carolina improve our standing,” Cease said.

You can read the report here.