- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 21, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Health and education are continuing to improve for children in Indiana, but the state is still struggling with high rates of child poverty, according to an annual national report released Tuesday.

Indiana ranked 32nd in the country for overall child well-being in this year’s Kids Count data book by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The state fell five spots from its ranking in the foundation’s report last year. The change reflects significant improvements in five other states, not worsened conditions in Indiana, according to the Indiana Youth Institute, which promotes healthy development of the state’s children.

“You certainly don’t want to see the state you live in drop five spots in the ranking,” said Glenn Augustine, interim CEO of the institute. “But that doesn’t mean you’re not making progress in your state. … It’s important to see the progress being made.”

The institute promotes healthy development of the state’s children by providing tools and information to the individuals, organizations and communities that impact their well-being.

The report measures the well-being of children in each state using four categories: health, education, economics, and family and community. Indiana improved in 11 out of 16 indicators in those groups.

More children in Indiana have health insurance and healthy birth weights compared to previous years, and fewer teens are giving birth or abusing drugs and alcohol, the report found. The state still ranked 35th for its overall health rating.

Marking its best ranking yet in the annual report, Indiana inched up one spot to 25th for overall education. The progress was partly due to improvements in graduation rates, math scores and the gap in school performance between the state’s white and Hispanic students, according to the Indiana Youth Institute.

About 22 percent of Indiana children were living in poverty in 2013, the most recent year for which data was available. That figure was the same as the previous year, but the number of children living in high-poverty areas rose slightly from 11 percent to 12 percent.

Indiana ranked 23rd for overall economic well-being, with 30 percent of parents lacking secure employment in 2013. That’s the same figure as 2012, but slightly worse than 2008, when 28 percent of Indiana parents lacked secure employment.

“It’s disheartening to see this trend get worse since the height of the recession in 2008,” Augustine said. “Historically, poverty lags behind other indicators in a recovery that follows a major economic downturn, and many Hoosier families are still struggling to provide basic living expenses.”

The 2015 Kids Count data book ranked Minnesota first in overall child well-being. Mississippi was ranked last.

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