Covering Louisiana

Aug 17, 2011 10:20 AM by Lauren Wilson & AP

La. ranks 49th in children's wellbeing

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Louisiana once again ranks 49th in the nation when it comes to the wellbeing of its children, according to the annual Kids Count survey.
The Advocate reports it's the 10th year in a row Louisiana has ranked second-to-last on this annual survey of indicators collected by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The 22nd installment of the Kids Count survey, however, reveals that while Louisiana is about the same, even slightly improved, compared with its standing a year ago, the national economic downturn has pulled several other states down closer to Louisiana levels.
Louisiana's high rate of child poverty - the percentage of children living below the federal poverty line, which is $21,756 for a family of four - has always pulled the state down on these surveys. But between 2000 and 2009, Louisiana's child poverty rate declined from 27 to 24 percent, while the rate nationwide increased from 17 to 20 percent over that same time period.
Teresa Falgoust, of New Orleans, coordinator of the Kids Count program in Louisiana, said Louisiana usually lags behind the rest of the country. She noted that the latest Kids Count data stops in 2009, but Louisiana has seen its unemployment rate get worse since then.
"Unfortunately, we will probably see our good fortune backslide as the rest of the country continues to improve," she said.
The Casey Foundation is a Baltimore private charity that pushes public policies involving children and provides funding to state and local agencies that help children and families.
Kids Count's state rankings are based on 10 different indicators. Eight of those have data going back to the year 2000.
Of those eight, Louisiana improved in four and decreased in four. Across the nation, five of eight of these indicators improved.
The child and teen death rates are study in contrast.
Falgoust said the state Department of Health and Hospitals has made great headway in finding ways to curb children's dying unnecessarily, producing a 9 percent decline in deaths between 2000 and 2007.
Teen deaths, however, increased 11 percent over that same time period. Teens killed in homicides have increased in Louisiana over the time, with the state now having the highest rate of teen homicide in the nation.
This year, Kids Count included two new indicators not comparable to years past: proportion of children living in families in which no parent has full-time, year-round employment, and the percentage of teens ages 16-19 not in school and not working.
In these new categories, Louisiana did better than other categories, 33 percent of Louisiana children had no parent who was employed full time, compared to 31 percent across the country, giving the state its highest ranking of 35.
Similarly, 11 percent of teens weren't in school or working, compared to 9 percent across the country, giving Louisiana a rank of 40.

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