By Liv Osby, Greenville News –
South Carolina made its best showing ever in the Kids Count state rankings this year, coming in at 38th.
That’s up from 39th last year, when it made it out of the bottom 10 for the first time.
But the state still falls behind the national average in many measures.
“We have made some strides, but we need to do more,” said Bett Williams, chief communications officer for Children’s Trust of South Carolina, which supports public and private prevention efforts aimed at keeping children safe.
“South Carolina can do better by its children,” she said.
The report looks at the well-being of children in a variety of areas, from the economy and education to health and family.
Fewer kids in poverty
And the Palmetto State improved in several key areas, according to the report from the the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The number of children living in poverty, for example, dropped from 26 percent to 23 percent between 2010 and 2016.
And the number of children whose parents lack secure employment declined from 37 percent to 30 percent during that time.
But South Carolina still fared worse than the national average of 19 percent of children living in poverty, accounting for nearly a quarter of a million children in the state, and 28 percent whose parents don’t have secure employment.
High school graduation rates also improved, according to the report.
Fewer children failed to graduate on time — 17 percent in 2015-2016, compared with 26 percent in 2010-2011, growing closer to the national average of 16 percent.
Health insurance gains
One of the greatest areas of improvement was in the number of children without health insurance.
That number declined by more than half between 2010 and 2016, from 9 percent to 4 percent. The U.S. rate also dropped from 8 percent to 4 percent during that time.
At the same time, the number of children with an uninsured parent also dropped from 23 percent to 14 percent.
The teen birth rate was another area where the state made significant progress.
It dropped substantially, from 43 per 1,000 girls to 24, during that time. The U.S. average was 20.
The teen birth rate has been declining steadily since 2007, when the rate was 52, the report shows.
Fewer kids in preschool
But South Carolina also lost ground in a number of areas, including education.
The number of 3- and 4-year-olds not attending preschool, for example, increased from 50 percent in 2009-2011 to 53 percent in 2014-2016, the report shows. The national average is 52 percent.
And the number of eighth-graders not proficient in math grew from 70 percent in 2009 to 74 percent in 2017, compared with 67 percent nationally.
However, the number of fourth-graders not proficient in reading declined slightly, from 72 percent to 71 percent during that time, compared with the national average of 65 percent.
Meanwhile, the number of child and teen deaths increased from 32 per 100,000 in 2010 to 33 in 2016, while the national average was 26.
Overall, the state ranked 34th in economic well-being, 36th in health, 37th in family and community, and 41st in education.
“We are seeing incremental improvements over time, and this shows us that the investments we are making in children, families and communities are adding up,” said Sue Williams, CEO of Children’s Trust.
“If South Carolina is to continue to rise in the ranks,” she added, “we must continue to invest in communities and support families.”
Source: Greenville News