TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – This year’s child well-being index for the Sunshine State is showing improvements for kids living in high-poverty areas, as well as fewer teen births and better student proficiency in reading and math.
But for Florida overall, the 2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation is a mixed bag, showing improvements in health-care access for kids thanks to the expansion of health-insurance programs.
While there are some improvements in the area of economic well-being, Florida KIDS COUNT Director Dr. Norín Dollard, says the state’s recovery is still ranked in the bottom tenth compared with other states.
“It’s not affecting all families equally,” Dollard says. “Looking at these data, we do have fewer kids in poverty than we had five years ago, which is great – but it’s still one in five kids in the state living below the federal poverty rate.”
According to Dollard, poverty continues to be a major issue, with persistent disparities among children of color and those from low-income and immigrant families. She warns that a potential under-count of the 2020 Census could put more children at risk of not getting the help they need.
The report says the young-child under-count has gotten worse with every census since 1980 and was 1 million short in 2010. Laura Speer, associate director for policy reform and advocacy at the Casey Foundation, is concerned that it could be worse for the 2020 Census, without a coordinated effort to improve accuracy.
“There’s about 4.5 million young children who live in neighborhoods where there’s a high risk of missing kids in the count,” Speer explains. “And it’s important because the census will inform federal spending for the next decade. We really just have one shot to do this right.”
The report notes research showing that by 2020, children of color will make up the majority of children in the United States.
The data show Florida is above the national average for preschool enrollment, and notable gains have been achieved in third-grade reading, which is seen as an important predictor of academic success.
Florida ranks 34th overall in child well-being. The full report is online at aecf.org.