COLUMBUS – The Buckeye State is stuck in the middle in terms of the well-being of its children, ranking 23rd nationally in the annual KIDS COUNT Data Book released today.
According to the report, nearly 53,000 more Ohio children live in low-income working families today than in 2008, and child poverty remains higher now than during the height of the recession.
Dawn Wallace-Pascoe with the Children’s Defense Fund in Ohio says more needs to be done to help the one in four Ohio children living in poverty.
“Growing up in poverty is one of the greatest threats to a healthy child’s development,” she says. “Reducing child poverty and lifting more children out of being low-income is key to Ohio’s future, and the success of future Ohioans.”
The report says poverty has also become more concentrated, and wide gaps remain in the living standards of many children of color compared to other children. The Annie E. Casey Foundation measures child well-being in the areas of education, health, economic stability, family and community. It’s the sixth straight year Ohio has ranked in the middle range among states.
While the economy has shown signs of improvement, Wallace-Pascoe says too many families still have a hard time meeting their children’s basic needs.
“Many of the jobs that were created in the last few years have obviously helped us reduce the unemployment rate,” she says. “However, they just have not provided the kind of wages and benefits that families need to be able to lift themselves out of being low-income or poor.”
The report suggests several measures to help struggling families, including a two-generation approach. Wallace-Pascoe says it involves strategies that support both children and their parents.
“Things like providing parents with multiple pathways to get jobs and achieve financial stability,” says Wallace-Pascoe. “Ensuring access to high-quality early childhood education, and equipping parents to better support their children socially and emotionally.”
For Ohio, the report highlights improvements in the categories of education and health, including more students graduating from high school on time, and fewer children without health insurance.