Published 3:33 am Wednesday, June 28, 2006
New rankings see Alabama rise when Kids Count
It's not just “thank God for Mississippi” anymore.
It's thank God for Louisiana, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas and Georgia, too.
But perhaps much more important, we should thank God for the child advocates across Escambia County and our state who have moved the annual “Kids Count” rank of Alabama from 48th to 43rd.
That's not where we want to be, but it's certainly a lot better than almost last.
The Kids Count rankings, released each year by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, detail how states are performing on a variety of factors related to child welfare, from low-birth weight to high school graduation rates.
Several child welfare indicators have improved in Alabama from 2000 to 2003: the child death rate, teen birth rate and teen death rate.
Also, from 200-2004, the percentage of teens who are high school dropouts improved 46 percent, while the percentage of teens attending school and not working improved 33 percent.
That shows that programs to keep kids in school and to stop teenage births are working.
But Alabama also saw several indicators that worsened over the three- to four-year period, including percentage of low-birth weight babies and the percentage of children in poverty.
The statistic regarding low-birth weight babies is particularly disheartening because it is so easy to avoid. Proper prenatal care should curb most cases when babies are at risk - but mothers are not getting the care they need.
Moreover, the problem of children in poverty is not going to improve until Alabama's poverty problem improves. We are making strides, with record low unemployment rates across the state, but we need to make sure residents are making a living wage at those jobs.
Overall, Alabama has much to celebrate with the new Kids County rankings - and much that we need to improve.
But, at least with many of the indicators, we are headed in the right direction.