Georgia has climbed to its best grade ever in child well-being despite ongoing economic woes, the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s national 2012 Kids Count report showed Wednesday.
The 23rd annual report showed Georgia ranked 37th in the nation, escaping the bottom 10 states while it continues to grapple with the effects of unemployment, housing costs, home foreclosures and lower household incomes in the wake of the economic recession.
One in four Georgia children under age 18 lived in poverty in 2010. That number was one in five in 2005.
“Georgia is making investments in a variety of initiatives around school improvements, college and career readiness, workforce development and the recent focus on quality in early learning center,” said Georgia Family Connection Partnership Executive Director Gaye Smith, former head of the Chatham-Savannah Youth Futures Authority.
But, she cautioned, the Casey report confirms Georgia’s long-term struggle with poverty.
Gov. Nathan Deal called the report “a defining moment for Georgia — a mobilizing moment.”
“While the Kid’s Count report is encouraging, it also reminds us that our work is just begun. … Generational poverty is a persistent issue in Georgia,” Deal said.
The report, conducted annually by the Baltimore-based nonprofit, gauges child well-being against 16 index indicators. The new report shows Georgia:
• Received its highest national ranking — 30 — in health issues featuring a drop in child and teen death rates, a decline in number of children without health insurance and a drop in babies born with low birth weight.
• Students improved in several key academic areas but still lagged behind the nation with a score of 38. More high-school students graduated in four years, and public school children improved in fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade math.
• More children are living with families where the household head has earned a high-school diploma.
In Savannah, Edward Chisolm, executive director of the Chatham-Savannah Youth Futures Authority, said the Casey report focuses on some of the issues facing families and children here.
Youth Futures is the local voice in the Georgia Family Connection Partnership.
“We want to make strong commitments in such areas as Promise Neighborhood and Choice Neighborhood initiatives to strengthen such areas as early learning, reading at third grade level and creating living wage jobs.”
“We’ll be taking a closer look at those issues in the fall,” Chisolm said, when the 19th annual Kids Matter profile focusing on the local picture is released.
Read the 2012 KIDS COUNT Data Book.
For interactive statewide data, visit Georgia KIDS COUNT at gafcp.org/kidscount.
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