By Laura Rosbrow-Telem for The New Hampshire News Connection
CONCORD — New Hampshire is the second best state in the country for children's well-being, according to a national report.
This year, New England states hold two of the top three spots for overall child well-being according to the 31st edition of the Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count Data Book with Massachusetts taking the top spot.
Louisiana (48th), Mississippi (49th) and New Mexico (50th) are the three lowest-ranked states.
States in Appalachia, as well as the Southeast and Southwest — where families have the lowest levels of household income — populate the bottom of the overall rankings. In fact, except for California and Alaska, the 18 lowest-ranked states are in these regions.
The annual report showed New Hampshire faring especially well in family and community indicators, including fewer children living in high-poverty areas. New Futures Vice President for Policy Jake Berry said he appreciates the ranking, but cited big gaps for some children in the state.
"There are children with families who do not have access to resources either through our public school system, through family resource centers, through home visiting programs, throughout child care, that they really need to thrive," said Berry.
The Casey Foundation report used data from 2018, based on the latest available information. The foundation plans to publish an update on how COVID-19 is impacting children.
Berry said New Hampshire has a strong public school system, and average household income and education level are relatively high. This is why he thinks the state does well in the Kids Count rankings. But he said he has one big concern about COVID's long-term effects on young people.
"The trauma that children are experiencing in their home and family and social lives; many children have been removed from their schools or their day-care centers, or are not able to be in regular touch with their grandparents or family members that really make up so much of their social circle," he said.
Berry said he's also worried about the lack of affordable child care in many parts of the state, particularly as people return to work.
New Futures is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that advocates, educates and collaborates to improve the health and wellness of all New Hampshire residents through policy change.