HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania continues to fall in an annual ranking of states for the overall well-being of children.
The Commonwealth dropped one place to 18th among all states in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2016 Kids Count Data Book, measuring economic, educational and health status. According to Michael Race, vice president for communications at Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, it’s the second year in a row the state has dropped in the ratings.
“Pennsylvania’s children are the single greatest resource we have to build a strong future for the commonwealth,” he said, “but we’re just not being aggressive enough to ensure our kids are getting what they need to succeed.”
The state dropped from 19th to 22nd in the economic well-being of children, from seventh to 10th in education, and stayed at 25th for family parameters such as poverty and single-parent households.
The one area of improvement was child health, including health insurance coverage, birth weight and teen drug and alcohol use. Race credited the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act for some of that progress, but other children’s health programs played an important part as well.
“We have a strong, vibrant CHIP program in Pennsylvania that helps cover kids,” he said, “and Pennsylvania is fortunate enough to be a state of universal coverage for children.”
Much of the data in the report covers the past two or three years, so the effects of the recent state budget impasse may not be reflected in the standings.
Race said lawmakers now working on a budget for the coming year need to make stronger investments in critical areas such as child care, home visiting programs, pre-kindergarten and K-through-12 education.
“We need to start doing it now and continue to do it in the years ahead,” he said, “so we can turn around this ranking and move Pennsylvania into one of the top 10 states to be a child and to raise a child.”
The report is online at datacenter.kidscount.org.