A new analysis of the well-being of America’s children puts kids in New York in the top half in areas of health and education but in the bottom half when measured in terms of economic and family well-being.
The annual Kids Count report released Wednesday shows that successes and challenges in New York largely mirror national trends, with gains seen in graduation rates and fourth-grade reading proficiency even as higher numbers of children are living in poverty and with parents who lack secure jobs.
“This year’s findings reveal signs of hope in the midst of tough economic times for millions of families across the country,” said Patrick McCarthy, president and chief executive of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which released the report. “While we’ve made progress in some important areas, we must work together to make sure every child, not just a select few, has the opportunity to succeed.”
New York ranked 29th overall in the report, down from 15th in 2011. But state officials attributed at least some of the drop to a change in the way the study was done. Rather than 10 indicators studied in previous years, this year’s analysis considered 16 indicators in four areas: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.
“As this year’s data book uses a different method and expanded indicator from last year’s rankings, it is inaccurate to compare year-to-year placements,” a statement from the Office of Children and Family Services said, noting that even under the new methodology, the state placed well in education and health.
New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont ranked highest in overall child well-being. Nevada, New Mexico and Mississippi ranked lowest.
New York avoided the bottom 10 in all four categories but also failed to crack the top 10. The state placed 15th in health, helped by declines in the number of children without health insurance. It ranked 19th in education and 32nd in economic well-being.
New York placed 34th in family and community, hurt by a high number of children — 35 percent — living in single-parent families. For 16 percent of children, the head of the household lacks a high school diploma, according to the findings.
“Improving the well-being of New York’s children requires a wide range of programs, participants and activities,” said Deborah Benson, executive director of the Council on Children and Families, which coordinates the state’s health, education and human services systems that serve children and families.
Benson cited several initiatives under way to improve the picture in New York, including state-backed programs emphasizing preventive health care and job training.
A richer new school curriculum along with more rigorous teacher evaluations is meant to better prepare students to graduate from high school and move into college and careers, the council noted.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation is a private charitable organization based in Baltimore.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.