West Virginia children improve in key indicators

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia has been making steady progress in key indicators of child well-being. The Mountain State ranks among the top 10 states in the nation with the lowest number of uninsured children. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book, the percentage of West Virginia children without health insurance has dropped from 5 percent to 3 percent. West Virginia also saw improvements in the teen birth rate which fell from 45 percent to 32 percent.  

WVU Medicine Children’s partners with West Virginia KIDS COUNT to determine and champion what’s best for West Virginia’s children and families. KIDS COUNT is a trusted source of data about the well-being of children; data guides the efforts to advocate for what kids need.

“Everyone — legislators, public officials, child advocates, educators, parents, and the media — must take action on behalf of kids and families to improve well-being for all of West Virginia’s children regardless of their race, ethnicity, or economic status,” Cheryl Jones, R.N., director of WVU Medicine Children’s and West Virginia KIDS COUNT Board Member, said.

Although West Virginia is making progress, children living in poverty remains the most problematic child well-being indicator for the state. The KIDS COUNT Data Book indicates that 25 percent of West Virginia’s children were living in poverty in 2015, which is the same percentage of children that were living in poverty in 2010. This is higher than the national average of 21 percent.

Additionally, the state is not doing well for its children of color, according to the Casey Foundation’s 2017 Race for Results report. The report shows little progress among African-American and Latino children, who account for more than 22,900, or 6.1 percent, of the children in West Virginia.

This is the second Race for Results report by the Casey Foundation; the Foundation released the first report in 2014. The report measures children’s progress on the national and state levels on key education, health, and economic milestones by racial and ethnic groups. The report’s index uses a composite score of these milestones on a scale of one (lowest) to 1,000 (highest) to make comparisons. West Virginia received the following index scores for child well-being: African-American (416); Latino (582); white (525). There was not sufficient information or numbers of Asian and Pacific Islander or American Indian children in the state to determine index scores related to those groups. 

The key indicator of economic security — children living in families above 200 percent of federal poverty and children living in low-poverty areas — stayed about the same or worsened for African-Americans and Latinos. According to Race for Results, in West Virginia, only 28 percent of African-American children and 31 percent of Latino children live above 200 percent of federal poverty ($49,200 for a family of four) compared to 51 percent of children overall in West Virginia and 56 percent nationwide.  
“We have not succeeded until all children from every racial and ethnic background have succeeded. Our future depends on their well-being and the realization of their potential. At the same time, we need to acknowledge that there is more work to be done,” said Dr. William White, executive director, Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs.

WV KIDS COUNT and the Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs encourage increased work and investment in critical areas of child well-being throughout the state.  

“We urge policymakers not to back away from targeted investments that help West Virginia’s children become healthier, more likely to complete high school, and better positioned to contribute to the state and national economy as adults,” said Tricia Kingery, executive director, WV KIDS COUNT. “Together, we can make West Virginia a great place to be a kid.”

Release Information 
The 2017 Race for Results report is available at www.aecf.org/raceforresults. Additional information is available at www.aecf.org. Information for the 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book can be found on the Casey Foundation’s Data Center at datacenter.kidscount.org. The website also contains the most recent national, state, and local data on numerous indicators of child well-being. Journalists interested in creating maps, graphs, and rankings in stories about Race for Results or the Data Book can use the Data Center information. 

West Virginia KIDS COUNT provides the most trusted data about the well-being of children and builds alliances to advocate for what kids need. Their vision is to make West Virginia a great place to be a kid. For more information, go to www.wvkidscount.org

Annie E. Casey Foundation 
The Annie E. Casey Foundation creates a brighter future for the nation’s children by developing solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity, and transform struggling communities into safer and healthier places to live, work, and grow. For more information, visit www.aecf.org. KIDS COUNT is a registered trademark of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Media Inquiries:
Tricia Kingery, WV KIDS COUNT Executive Director, 304-345-2101, tricia@wvkidscount.org