An annual survey assessing children’s well-being in the 50 states ranks Indiana 30th, one spot better than last year.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation ranks the states on 16 measures in four broad categories for its KIDS COUNT scorecard.
Indiana vaulted ahead 13 slots to 21st place in children’s health, largely on the strength of a half percent improvement in four years in the number of low birth-weight babies.
Indiana Youth Institute president Bill Stanczykiewicz says that translates to hundreds of lives. The percentage has steadily improved for four years.
Stanczykiewicz credits the state’s concerted effort to reduce the number of low birthweight babies.
“As we get the word out to moms to please stop smoking, please stop using alcohol while you are pregnant, as community organizations work to get mom the access to prenatal care that she needs, it’s a lot of hard work, and these movements are positive,” Stanczykiewicz says.
A decline in the number of child deaths due to fewer car crashes also boosted Indiana’s health ranking. The improvements were offset by backsliding on economic measures.
One in four Hoosier children lives in poverty, while one in three have parents without fulltime jobs. The data are from the recession year of 2011, but have been going up for six years.
Stanczykiewicz says the slippage underlines the need to improve job training and education.
The Indiana Youth Institute does not take a position on legislative proposals to expand preschool, but Stanczykiewicz says preschool attendance is part of the KIDS COUNT Scorecard.
“We know that our middle-income neighbors have access through their own financial means to send their kids to preschool,” Stanczykiewicz says. “Our lower income neighbors, often their kids will start preschool two grades behind their middle income peers.”
Indiana’s performance on education and family and community measures, such as the number of children in single-parent homes, was essentially unchanged.