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From the very first report in 1990 to today, South Carolina still ranks near the bottom in the United States in child well-being, according to the latest released information in the annual Kids Count Data Book.
The Kids Count Data Book uses an index of 16 indicators to rank the nation’s 50 states on overall child well-being in four domains: economic well-being, education, health and family and community.
The Palmetto State’s children are showing progress in some areas.
However, those strides are not enough to move them out of the bottom 10 percent of the country. South Carolina ranks 45th in the latest numbers.
Phil Noble, a Charleston businessman and president of the S.C. New Democrat, said the 16 basic indicators have “mountains of data” on race, gender, age, section of country, income and more.
“The problem of fixing things for our children is not simple and easy; it’s culture, politics, public policy, race, religion, law and God knows what else,” Noble said.
“But there are things that can be done – specific, concrete legal and policy changes that can be made that will produce positive results.”
Children’s Trust chief executive officer Sue Williams said education remains a critical component for future success and family stability.
“Too many of South Carolina’s children are missing important educational milestones. The data is painting a very alarming picture for South Carolina’s future,” Williams said.
“Most alarming are the education and poverty measures. With education, families can lift themselves out of poverty and greatly reduce the stressors that can lead to child abuse and neglect.”
Children in South Carolina struggle in education and economic well-being. For example, 57 percent do not attend preschool, 72 percent of fourth graders are not proficient in reading and 69 percent of eighth grade students are not proficient in math.
The Kids Count data shows that 27 percent of the state’s children live in poverty.
Education measures for minorities are especially telling.
Only 13 percent of black children are reading proficiently by fourth grade and have math proficiency by eighth grade.
This year is the 25th edition of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count Data Book and South Carolina has not ranked higher than 42nd since the project began.
Noble urged the leaders of the state to recognize one important fact.
“Our state’s lawmakers need to understand something basic – Ozzie and Harriett are dead,” he said. “This is not the South Carolina of the 1950s, with stay-at-home moms fixing dinner for hubby and the kids.
“Today in the United States, 71 percent of children live in families where all parents work.”
Williams took that thought one step further.
“If South Carolina is to thrive in a global marketplace, we must pay attention to these warning signs and work to change these statistics,” she said.
The Kids Count report and South Carolina fact sheet are available on The Casey Foundation website at www.aecf.org and the Children’s Trust website at thechildrenstrust.org.
Contact reporter Denyse Clark at (803) 283-1152