Report: Georgia rises in kids’ care

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But state remains in the back of the pack

By Craig Schneider

Georgia is seeing slightly fewer children living in poverty and fewer teens abusing drugs and alcohol, helping the state climb two spots to rank 40th in the nation when it comes to caring for kids, according to a study released today.

But even as Georgia shows some post-recession improvement, it continues to struggle – as it has for years – to break out of the bottom of the pack. More than one in four children still lives in poverty and one in three of Georgia’s children live in homes where neither parent has a year-round, full-time job, according to the annual Kids Count Data Book report.

“What is so troubling about employment in post-recession Georgia is that too many of the newly created jobs pay low wages, with benefits that fail to meet even basic family expenses,” said Gaye Smith, executive director of Georgia Family Connection Partnership, an Atlanta-based non profit.

The study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation has pulled together metrics on children’s health, economic well-being, education and teen births for more than a quarter of a century. Much of the analysis is based on 2013 data.

The child poverty rate of 27 percent represents a slight improvement over the prior year, and marked the first drop in child poverty in five years. Still, that’s not much to celebrate, considering that the child poverty rate still stands far above the rate in the 2010 study of 20 percent.

“We’re hoping that we’re now heading back in the right direction,” said Rebecca Rice, the Georgia Kids Count coordinator. “I do think some trends are encouraging.”

On the positive side, Georgia has seen improvement in the teens births, teen deaths and teens abusing drugs and alcohol. Also, more children are growing up in homes where parents have a high school diploma.

Regarding the improving teen birth rate, Rice said, “When women delay having children, that creates more stable families. They can finish their education and get better jobs. That helps the economic situation in Georgia.”

Georgia is also seeing fewer teens dropping out of school and not working, Rice noted.

“Teen mothers tend to drop out,” Rice said. “Children of teen mothers tend to drop out and often get into crime. So dropping out creates a long-lasting, two-generation problem.”

Still, the state’s rate of 10 percent of children not in school and not working remains above the national average of 8 percent.

This year, Minnesota ranked at the top of the list and Mississippi at the bottom.

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Read the Georgia Family Connection Partnership release.

Georgia Family Connection is a statewide network with a Collaborative in all 159 counties.