Telling the Story of Children in Missouri

June 13, 2017

The Annie E. Casey Foundation has released its annual KIDS COUNT Data Book detailing the latest national rankings of states across 16 key measures within four domains including, economic well-being, education, health, and family & community. The report highlights areas of improvement including

  • a historic number of children have health insurance
  • higher employment
  • fewer families burdened by housing costs
  • a slight decrease in the number of people living in poverty

The report also recognizes areas of concern including a significant number of children living in high-poverty, where 30% or more of the population in a designated area lives at or below the federal poverty level. Despite a higher number of high schoolers graduating, the report notes challenges in the proficiency of 8th graders in math and 4th graders in reading.

On a local level, Missouri KIDS COUNT data is used to take a deeper look into the issues and areas impacting children than is possible at the national level. In Missouri, we’ve seen improvement in family economic well-being with more parents employed full-time, fewer families spending a burdensome amount of their income on housing costs, and a drop in the number of teen mothers. However, despite these positive trends, the number of Missouri fourth graders who are not reading at grade level is only slightly lower than the national average and the percentage of Missouri’s eighth graders not proficient in math is slightly higher than the national average. Also, a substantial number of Missouri’s children continue to live in high-poverty neighborhoods where they are surrounded by poverty, making it harder at multiple levels to thrive.

Knowing the numbers as they relate to the larger picture can help policymakers make the best decisions in supporting health care, education and economic stability programs that move Missouri’s children in the right direction.

“The national report is always a mix of information that highlights challenges and opportunities. We will keep our focus on what we know, that continued investment in our children reaps rewards for all of us.” Bill Dent, Executive Director, Family and Community Trust

Since 2013, the Family and Community Trust (FACT) has served as Missouri’s KIDS COUNT affiliate. FACT is the state level, private/public organization that governs a network of 20 Community Partnerships focused on achieving better results for children and families. FACT’s KIDS COUNT initiative focuses on child well-being in Missouri.

View the AECF 2017 Data Book.

The Missouri Public News Service released the following on the 2017 Data Book release:

Missouri Gets Mixed Grades for Child Well-Being

An annual report on child well-being ranks Missouri 25th in the nation for providing children vital supports. The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book examines economic well-being, education, health, and family and community factors that influence children’s growth and development.

On the plus side, it says an historic number of Missouri children have health insurance, and more Missouri parents are employed this year compared with last. However, Bill Dent, executive director of Missouri’s Family and Community Trust, says there are still problems for poor families who live in rural areas.

“So many of those families find themselves in so much isolation just by the nature of their ZIP code, which makes it very difficult,” Dent explains. “The resources are just not there, even if they wanted to get them.”

The Casey Foundation is making a plea to state and federal policymakers not to back away from targeted investments, like the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medicaid. It says they’ve been proven to help children become healthier, more likely to complete high school and better positioned to contribute to the nation’s economy.

And Dent believes in Missouri, the Family and Community Trust is in a good position to bring about positive changes.

“The beauty of our work is that the board that I serve also has cabinet-level leaders in state government on it, and it will help us have those conversations at the highest level,” he says. “At least in state government, we can have an impact directly.”

Dent says there are many examples of proven supports and interventions that help children achieve their full potential, regardless of race, ethnicity or ZIP code. He cites universal pre-Kindergarten and child tax credits among those examples.