By Steve Bell
June 22, 2016

Both Kansas and Missouri stayed in the middle tier of states in the new KIDS COUNT survey released Tuesday, but Kansas had the third-largest drop in child well-being ratings in the nation.

Overall, Kansas fell from 15th place last year to 19th.  Missouri slipped from 26thto 28th.

Health scores improved for Missouri kids but slid 11 places for Kansas.

Missouri came up three positions on economic well-being, Kansas held steady at No. 9.

This year marks the 27th edition of the Data Book, which ranks each state in 16 indicators of child well-being within four domains: economic well-being, education, health and family and community.

Kansas Reaction

Kansas children’s advocates blamed a weakened safety net system.

“Since 2011, Kansas has reduced early education funding and significantly weakened the state safety net. This has been negatively impacting children and families for years, but we’re only just now starting to see the consequences due to a lag in the data,” said Annie McKay, president and CEO of Kansas Action for Children.

Other highlights from the Data Book:

  • From 2008 to 2014, the number of Kansas children living in high poverty areas increased to 65,000 – or 9 percent of all kids – compared to two percent in 2000;
  • Children in families where no parent has full-time, year-round employment increased to 25 percent, with the overall state ranking dropping from 6th to 10th since last year’s Data Book;
  • 65 percent of Kansas fourth graders scored below proficient in reading, dropping from 13th to 30th nationally since 2015;
  • The percentage of children without health insurance improved, dropping from 8 percent to 5 percent since 2008, with Kansas’ national ranking in this indicator improving from 23rd to 17th since last year’s Data Book. This reflects national trends attributed to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Missouri Reaction

Missouri advocates welcomed the improvements but acknowledged there was lots of room for more.

“We’ve seen improvements in several areas of interest over the past eight years,” said Bill Dent, Executive Director of Missouri Family and Community Trust. “However, many Missouri children are being raised in poverty, or without health care, and this is something that needs to be addressed.”

“We need to celebrate the choices and changes that teens are making in their families, schools and communities around the state that position them to fully transition to a successful adult,” said Mr. Dent. “We will continue to leverage the Missouri KIDS COUNT resources, including the 20 Community Partnerships around the state and the Family and Community Trust Board.”

While advancements have been made, there are still opportunities for improvement in the

following areas as highlighted by the KIDS COUNT Data Book:

  • 1 in 5 children live in poverty
  • 1 in 10 children live in neighborhoods where 30 percent or more of all households are low-income
  • As recently as 2014, approximately 100,000 children lack health insurance

Read more from KMUW.