Child well-being suffers in Alabama

Published 3:17 pm Wednesday, July 3, 2019

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   Alabama dropped two spots from last year to the overall ranking of 44th in the nation for child well-being, according to the 2019 Kids Count Data Book. Escambia County Children’s Policy Council Executive Director Karean Reynolds said that Alabama is so low in the nation for child well-being because of its issue with poverty. 

   “All of our problems come from people not having adequate jobs,” Reynolds said. “Escambia County does not have a good job market. Majority of our jobs are at the Wind Creek Atmore Casino and the Escambia County School System.”

   During the Escambia County Children’s Policy Council meeting on Thursday, Reynolds said 33 percent of youth in Alabama are living in poverty. 50 percent are black youth and 22 percent are white youth. However, nationally 18 percent of youth live in poverty. 

   Reynolds said one of the county’s top needs are to enhance school success, manage substance abuse and juvenile crime safety. Alabama ranked 38th in education. The state had some slight improvements in the reading proficiency of fourth graders and the math proficiency of eighth graders, but the state’s percentage of children ages three and four not in school continues to grow. 

   “A lot of children do not have access to early education, and 45 percent of youth live in a single parent home,” Reynolds said. “So, we have a lot of children facing numerous disadvantages in our community.”

   Reynolds said that there isn’t any inpatient mental health services for youth in Escambia County. 

   “Substance abuse plays an instrumental part in this county’s youth,” Reynolds said. “People are dying.”

   “Escambia County is number 57 out of 67 counties in Alabama,” Reynolds said. “That means this county is at the bottom 10 percent of the nation. Our 4.1 percent unemployment rate, poor transportation system, substance abuse and all of the other issues– all of them play a part in Alabama ranking to 44th in the nation.”

   Reynolds does have a plan to improve the well-being of children in this county, which is to continue turning to the county’s resources. There are several drug programs the county works with such as CLOUD and Peer Helpers. For early education, there is Headstart and Pre-k programs. 

   “We hope to move up in the coming years,” Reynolds said. “We have a lot of agencies to turn to.”