CHILDREN’S HEALTH: Children’s Rights Council Ranks — and Rankles — States
California is one of the worst states in the country to raise a child, according to a report released Tuesday by the Children's Rights Council, the AP/Nando Times reports. Included in the top five were Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire. Based on statistics gathered from the FBI, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and state law enforcement officials, the report ranked all 50 states and the District of Columbia on factors including teen birth and infant mortality rates as well as access to prenatal care, child poverty and juvenile arrests (Gosier, AP/Nando Times, 7/28). CRC President David Levy stated that study is designed to "prod state officials to improve their services for children. ... [W]e seek to instill a sense of friendly competition among the states -- friendly competition to do better for our children."
Some state officials took issue with the survey, especially those in California, which ranked 46th. Jorja Prover, a professor at UCLA's School of Public Policy and Social Research, was "floored by the outcome of the study" saying that the survey was flawed by excluding "California's system of services for children, such as independent living opportunities for adolescents." Child Welfare League of America spokesperson Joyce Johnson indicated that her organization is "a little leery" about comparing states due to the "stark differences in both demographics and data collection." Andrew Bridge, executive director of the Los Angeles-based Alliance for Children's Rights said he was not surprised by the results, "given the rates of poverty his group encounters in the state's inner cities." He notes that "[e]ven if more factors were added to the study that buoyed the state's rankings, the fact would still remain that over one-third of all ... children (in Los Angeles County) live in poverty." California state officials did not comment on the study.
Other State's Reactions
Maine Governor Angus King (I) was delighted with the study results, saying, "It simply tells the country something that we've known for a long time" (Fuzesi, Los Angeles Times, 7/28). Officials in 12th-ranked Rhode Island were pleased with the results. The Providence Journal reports that Rhode Island does well "on indicators of child health, such as infant mortality and prenatal care." Elizabeth Burke Bryant, executive director of Rhode Island Kids Count, said, "the state is doing well on children's health early in life, and need to move forward to address the problems that occur later in children's lives" including the dropout rate and teen pregnancy, which has "leveled out" despite a nationwide drop (Freyer, 7/28). The District of Columbia ranked 51st, but city officials said they were hopeful that change was coming. According to Peggy Armstrong, spokesperson for Mayor Anthony Williams (D), "[N]ext year's budget, which Congress must approve, earmarks $50 million for programs to 'help turn these terrible statistics around'" (AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune, 7/28).