Study puts state at 39 in child and fam­ily well-be­ing

The Standard Journal - - LOCAL - From press re­lease

Ge­or­gia ranks 39th in the na­tion for over­all child and fam­ily well-be­ing in the lat­est KIDS COUNT® Data Book, re­leased to­day by the An­nie E. Casey Foun­da­tion.

7KLV LV WKH ¿UVW WLPH *HRUJLD KDV ranked higher than 40th since 2012.

While this over­all rank­ing can­not be di­rectly com­pared to pre­vi­ous years be­cause method­ol­ogy has changed over time, the re­port shows that more stuGHQWV LQ *HRUJLD DUH SUR¿FLHQW LQ UHDGLQJ and math, fewer chil­dren are liv­ing in poverty, and more chil­dren are liv­ing in fam­i­lies where the head of the house­hold has a high-school diploma. And though Ge­or­gia’s chil­dren and fam­i­lies still face chal­lenges, there are some promis­ing trends for the state.

“Healthy chil­dren are our state’s most valu­able re­source, and Ge­or­gia is com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing each child with a strong foun­da­tion for growth and devel­op­ment,” said Gov. Nathan Deal. “As we con­tinue our work to make Ge­or­gia a leader in all in­dus­tries, we are mak­ing VLJQL¿FDQW LQYHVWPHQWV LQ . HGXFD­tion, as well as early care and learn­ing through the Qual­ity Rated pro­gram, to en­sure stu­dents are reading on gradeOHYHO DQG H[SHULHQFLQJ VLJQL¿FDQW DFD­demic achieve­ment. By cul­ti­vat­ing safe and sup­port­ive en­vi­ron­ments con­ducive to suc­cess both in the class­room and the work­force, we are bet­ter pre­par­ing our stu­dents to meet the chal­lenges of to­day, to­mor­row, and be­yond.”

The in­vest­ments Ge­or­gia has made in its chil­dren and fam­i­lies over the past decade are poised to pay div­i­dends. The state’s com­mit­ment to in­creas­ing high-qual­ity early care and learn­ing through Qual­ity Rated and Get Ge­or­gia Reading—Cam­paign for Grade-Level Reading, and the em­pha­sis on cre­at­ing a Ge­or­gia where all chil­dren can read on grade level by the end of third grade, are ex­am­ples of these in­vest­ments.

“A con­tin­ued com­mit­ment to serv­ing chil­dren and fam­i­lies will po­si­tion the state to im­prove further in the op­por­tu­ni­ties for our chil­dren to be­come suc­cess­ful Ge­or­gians,” said Ge­or­gia Fam­ily Con­nec­tion Part­ner­ship Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Gaye Smith. “If we stay the course with these types of strate­gic in­vest­ments, all Ge­or­gians will benH¿W IURP WKH UHVXOWLQJ SURJUHVV DQG pos­i­tive com­mu­nity out­comes. But it’s not enough to work hard for our chil­dren and fam­i­lies. We must con­tinue to work for them to­gether in both the public and pri­vate sec­tors.”

The an­nual KIDS COUNT Data Book uses 16 in­di­ca­tors to rank each state across four do­mains—health, ed­u­ca­tion, eco­nomic well-be­ing, and fam­ily and com­mu­nity—to as­sess child well­be­ing. The re­port uses data from 2016, the most re­cent avail­able.

More Eco­nomic Sta­bil­ity for Ge­or­gia’s Fam­i­lies

Ge­or­gia ranks 37th in Eco­nomic Well­be­ing. Fam­i­lies and chil­dren are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing more eco­nomic sta­bil­ity than in pre­vi­ous years, with Ge­or­gia’s eco­nomic do­main rank im­prov­ing by seven spots over last year, and all four in­di­ca­tors show­ing progress both year-toyear and com­pared to 2010. Ge­or­gia’s child poverty rate con­tin­ued to drop, de­creas­ing to 23 per­cent, down from 24 per­cent in 2015, and 25 per­cent in 2010. (The na­tional av­er­age is 19 per­cent.) Ge­or­gia’s per­cent­age of teens not in school and not work­ing also im­proved to 8 per­cent, down from 9 per­cent in 2015 and 12 per­cent in 2010. Fi­nally, the per­cent­ages of chil­dren whose par­ents lack se­cure em­ploy­ment and chil­dren liv­ing in house­holds with a high hous­ing cost bur­den, both dropped one per­cent­age point from last year, and sev­eral per­cent­age points from 2010.

Con­tin­ued Pos­i­tive Ed­u­ca­tion Trends Key to a Ro­bust Work­force

Ge­or­gia ranks 34th in ed­u­ca­tion. Mostly pos­i­tive ed­u­ca­tion trends con­tinue, with fewer eighth-graders scor­ing EHORZ SUR¿FLHQW LQ PDWK DQG IHZHU IRXUWK JUDGHUV VFRULQJ EHORZ SUR¿FLHQW in reading. The 2015 data showed that 72 per­cent of eighth-graders were below SUR¿FLHQW LQ PDWK DQG LQ WKDW per­cent­age fell to 69 per­cent, com­pared with a na­tional av­er­age of 67 per­cent. The per­cent­age of high school stu­dents not grad­u­at­ing on time re­mained the same as in the pre­vi­ous re­port at 21 per­cent, but that num­ber rep­re­sents D VLJQL¿FDQW LPSURYHPHQW IURP when 33 per­cent of Ge­or­gia high school stu­dents failed to grad­u­ate on time. A strong ed­u­ca­tional pipe­line, from birth through early adult­hood, is key to en­sur­ing that Ge­or­gia builds a ca­pa­ble, ro­bust work­force and con­tin­ues to be a place peo­ple want to call home.

Teen Birth Rate at an All­Time Low

Ge­or­gia ranks 40th in fam­ily and com­mu­nity, im­prov­ing in that do­main by one spot over last year’s rank, based on im­prove­ments in teen births, chil­dren liv­ing in high-poverty ar­eas, and adult ed­u­ca­tional at­tain­ment. At 13 per­cent, this is the low­est ever per­cent­age of Ge­or­gia chil­dren grow­ing up in a fam­ily where the head of the house­hold lacks a high school diploma. Ge­or­gia’s teen birth rate con­tin­ues to fall, reach­ing an all-time low at 24 per 1,000, com­pared to the na­tional av­er­age of 20 per 1,000.

Low Birth­weight on the Rise

Ge­or­gia ranks 39th in health this year, but the do­main rank can­not be com­pared to pre­vi­ous years be­cause the method­ol­ogy for cal­cu­lat­ing drug and al­co­hol abuse has changed. This do­main saw mixed re­sults that in­cluded an in­crease in low birth­weight ba­bies and child and teen deaths. Af­ter im­prov­ing its low birth­weight rate be­tween 2010 and last year’s data, Ge­or­gia’s rate rose to its high­est rate in the Data Book’s 29-year his­tory at 9.8 per­cent. The na­tional low birth­weight rate rose as well be­tween

DQG EXW UHPDLQV VLJQL¿cantly lower than Ge­or­gia’s rate at 8.2 per­cent. Ge­or­gia did im­prove on the per­cent­age of chil­dren with­out health in­sur­ance, go­ing from 7 per­cent last year to 6 per­cent this year, and down from 10 per­cent in 2010.

“Ge­or­gia’s eco­nomic vi­tal­ity de­pends upon our abil­ity to im­prove the qual­ity of life for all Ge­or­gians,” said Chris Clark, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Ge­or­gia Cham­ber of Com­merce. “With over 29 per­cent of ru­ral chil­dren liv­ing in poverty we must be proac­tive in our ef­forts to pro­vide ad­e­quate health­care, trans­porta­tion, ed­u­ca­tion, and em­ploy­ment to end the cy­cle of gen­er­a­tional poverty. As we seek to in­vest in our next gen­er­a­tion, it is crit­i­cal that we cre­ate so­lu­tions that ad­vance sus­tain­able eco­nomic mo­bil­ity for Ge­or­gia’s most vul­ner­a­ble citizens.”

Kevin Myrick

There’s work be­ing done again at West Cin­ema in Cedar­town, as owner Michael Tin­ney re­ported on the the­ater’s Face­book page in past days to ren­o­vate the struc­ture af­ter some dam­age caused dur­ing roof re­pairs. Tin­ney is ask­ing for the public’s help on...

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