Arizona Ranks 46th for Kids’ Well-Being, with a Cloudy Future

joe-garciaBy Joe Garcia
Communication Director
ASU Morrison Institute for Public Policy
June 21, 2017

It’s tough being a kid.

For a variety of reasons, that’s especially true in Arizona.

Arizona ranks among the bottom five in the nation in the 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book, a yearly analysis of 16 indicators regarding children’s health, family and economic well-being.

Arizona always does poorly in the national report, which is commissioned by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, so perhaps no one will be surprised by Arizona’s 46th overall rating.

Some data points (Arizona versus U.S.) from the recently released study:

KIDS COUNT category domain

Arizona

U.S.

Children in poverty

25%

21%

Children living in high-poverty areas

24%

14%

Children in single-parent families

38%

35%

Children whose parent(s) lack secure employment

30%

29%

Teen births per 1,000

26

22

Teens who abuse alcohol or drugs

6%

5%

Teens not in school and not working

9%

7%

Young children not in school

63%

53%

4th-graders not proficient in reading

70%

65%

8th-graders not proficient in math

65%

68%

High school students not graduating on time

23%

17%

Source: 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book

 

As a member of the board of directors for Arizona Children’s Action Alliance, a non-profit children’s advocacy organization, I’m only too familiar with the high number and plight of Arizona’s most vulnerable population – our kids.

I guess if I am surprised at anything, it’s the lack of urgency in addressing these most-pressing problems associated with poverty, educational voids, health care gaps and domestic family strife.

Kids are only kids for only a short while. Arizona’s perennial position at the bottom of such rankings results in a generational if not predictable outcome – and it’s not good. Kids in crisis often turn into adults in crisis and, perpetuating the problem, often wind up raising kids in crisis themselves. And, so it goes.

There were modest improvements in some areas in the aforementioned indicators for 2015, providing some encouragement for hope but little reason for celebration. In other words, a while a little less rain cannot save a drowning person, it’s a welcomed sight.

If there were a bright spot in the 2017 KIDS COUNT report, it’s that fewer Arizona children were without health insurance (8 percent in 2015 vs. 13 percent in 2010), thanks to improvements in the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (or AHCCCS, Arizona’s version of Medicaid) and expanded coverage available under the Affordable Care Act.

And since the report evaluated 2015 data, the report’s numbers don’t reflect the 20,000 Arizona children now enrolled in KidsCare, which was reinstated last year with the federal government paying 100 percent of the bill. During the six-year hiatus prior to the reinstatement, Arizona was the lone state without a Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for low-income kids.

Such improvements in Arizona children’s health care coverage, however, could be short-lived under proposed cuts to Medicaid and the current framework for the proposed American Health Care Act. Under a new provision of Arizona law, any tinkering of less than full federal commitment to KidsCare automatically would kill the insurance coverage for at-risk families who are just above Medicaid eligibility.

Such triggers could be make it tougher yet for Arizona kids and families trying to keep their heads above water, especially with a resulting state forecast that calls for more rain.

 

This blog was shared with the permission of the ASU Morrison Institute for Public Policy.