The Annie E. Casey Foundation has released the 2011 KIDS COUNT Data Book - an annual report profiling national, state and local indicators of child well-being. Tracking the well-being of children for 21 years, the Data Book captures a wide range of indicators - such as health, income and education – and documents trends, improvements and setbacks. This year’s report highlights improvements that have been made over the past two decades, including decreased rates of infant mortality, high school dropouts and teen births. However, this report also illustrates the troubling decline in well-being for children and families that has resulted from the economic recession.
In response to the daunting challenges our children face, the Data Book emphasizes the need to invest in sound policies that promote child and family well-being. The Data Book spotlights five families and captures their stories of struggle and hardship, as well as the practical policy solutions, without which these families would not have been able to improve. For example, Manuel Luna describes the financial and emotional struggles he and his family faced after Manuel lost his job in 2009. Manuel credits the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Energy Assistance Program as the main reasons he was able to pull his family through immense financial setbacks. In addition to these programs, Manuel received counseling and participated in financial education programs in his community, which ultimately helped to lift his family out of hardship. Similarly, Charles Leach – who struggled to maintain employment while also caring for his 18-month-old-son – credits the community-based Early Learning and Literacy Resource Center in Atlanta with his ability to gain economic stability and participate in parent training programs. With his son receiving high-quality childcare free of charge, Charles is able to both work and attend an intensive technology training program through the Center for Working Families. As each of the stories illustrate, the struggles youth and families face are complex and require solutions that address the unique needs of children, their families and entire communities.
In addition, the KIDS COUNT Data Center provides online access to hundreds of child well-being indicators in areas such as education, employment, income, health and youth risk factors. National, state and – in some cases – local data are available.