- The Washington Times - Friday, June 30, 2006

KIDS COUNT, a report published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation on child well-being, finds that “the overriding picture… is one of little change since 2000.” The report divides child well-being into 10 key indicators and shows how each has progressed across the nation and by state. Family values don’t seem to indicate that kids count.

Child well-being in the 1990s was improving quite rapidly. For example, between 1994 and 2000, child poverty fell by 30 percent. But since then, the findings have not been as positive. In the latest report, we see that nationally the numbers of low-birth-weight babies, children living in poverty and children in families where no parent has full-time, year-round employment have increased. There has been no change in the infant mortality rate, the percentage of teens who are not in school or working and the percentage of children in single-parent families.

All is not doom and gloom with America’s children, though. Nationally, there have been improvements in the child death rate, the teen death rate, the teen birth rate and the percentage of school dropouts. As a matter of fact, the teen birth rate and the teen dropout rate have improved by a staggering 13 percent and 27 percent, respectively.

Things are different here in the District, though. D.C. statistics are included in the report, however the city is not ranked among other states. Outlook, unfortunately: not so good. Perhaps the most startling statistic is the teen death rate, measured as deaths per 100,000 teens ages 15-19, which worsened by 40 percent between 2000 and 2003. Even Alaska, ranked 50th for teen deaths with 105 per year, is easily surpassed by the District’s 151. In fact, in five out of the 10 indicators, the District, when compared to the 50 states, comes in dead last, often by an enormous margin.

The rates of teen births, idle teens, children with unemployed parents, children in poverty and single-parent families have all worsened. But on the bright side, there are a few areas where the District is improving; for example, the number of high school dropouts has decreased by 23 percent over the three-year period.

Despite efforts by the D.C. and federal governments and many youth advocacy groups, the well-being of the children in our city is still in need of serious care ? a downright overhaul in many cases. Too many families seemingly have forgotten that child well-being begins at home.

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