Utah, usually the only Rocky Mountain state among the nation’s top 10 in an annual assessment of how children are faring, did less well in this year’s report.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2011 Kids Count places Utah seventh, down three places from last year. Idaho ranks 22nd, Colorado 25th, Wyoming 28th, Montana 33rd, and New Mexico 46th.
Utah’s decline was largely because of two new metrics used by the foundation this year: unemployment in the family and home foreclosures.
“This is the worst ranking we’ve had since 2003,” Terry Haven, Kids Count director for Voices for Utah Children told the Salt Lake Tribune when the report was released last week. “While we used to be way ahead of the nation in a lot of our measures, we’re becoming closer to the norm. We’ve had a huge increase in children affected by their parents not working.”
The lot of Idaho’s Idaho’s children generally has improved over the past 10 years, but the percentage of youth living in poverty during that period has increased to 29 percent compared to 18 percent nationwide, the report shows.
“Our poverty rates are growing faster than the rest of the nation and that has long-term consequences,” Lauren Necochea, project director for Idaho Kids Count, told the Associated Press. “Poverty creates a setback that children may not be able to recover from.”
Colorado also fared poorly in the new unemployment and home foreclosure categories. It was tied for 38th in the percentage of children affected by foreclosure over the past several years, and tied for 30th for children with at least one unemployed parent.
“What we’re concerned about with foreclosure and unemployed parents for kids is the stress on them,” Lisa Piscopo, vice president of research for the Colorado Children’s Campaign, told The Gazette in Colorado Springs. “You’re moving them from their schools, they’re losing their homes.”
Wyoming’s national ranking for child well-being didn’t change from the previous year, which surprised the state’s Kids Count director, Marc Homer. If you’re in a state that’s come out pretty well through the recession compared to states across the nation, it is surprising that we haven’t moved up in the rankings,” he told the Tribune Eagle in Cheyenne.
“When you look at the top-tier states, they’ve had programs in place for years that focus on quality early childhood education and revised juvenile justice systems,” he said. “Many provide a higher level of social safety and the women in those states have better access to health care.”
Montana has dropped a dozen places in the rankings over the past decade, to this year’s 33rd spot. The state’s child poverty rate has increased 24 percent since 2000.
“In terms of foreclosure levels, Montana has escaped the worst impact compared to other states,” Patrick Barkey, director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana said to mtbusiness.com. “However, there also are a number of states that fared considerably better. Additionally, foreclosure levels differ greatly between counties.”
New Mexico has typically been near the bottom of the national rankings, and growing unemployment in that state didn’t help in this year’s analysis.
“Since the recession, the rate of New Mexico children who live with at least one unemployed parent has more than doubled,” the state’s Kids Count director, Christine Hollis, told the Public News Service. “We’ve also seen a significant jump in the number of children who live in single-parent families.”
The Kids Count analysis is based on 10 key indictors, plus the two new categories this year.
The 12 indicators are: low weight at birth; infant mortality; child deaths; teen deaths from all causes; teen births by age group; teens ages 16-19 not in school and not high school graduates; teens ages 16-19 not attending school and not working; children in poverty; children in single-parent families; children affected by foreclosure since 2007; and children with at least one unemployed parent.