A new report ranks Missouri 28th in the well-being of children – down one spot from the previous year’s ranking of 27th. The Annie E. Casey Foundation puts together the annual Kids Count Data Book.

The report uses 2021 government data about health, family, education, economic well-being, and community to compile its work.

Lisa Hamilton, the president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said Missouri fares well in some areas but struggles in others.

“Economic well-being for families was ranked 18th but (Missouri) struggled more in areas like healthcare, where it was ranked 35th,” said Hamilton.

According to the data book, about 356,000 Missouri children have parents who lack secure employment and about 219,000 live in poverty.

“Financial Stability is a core ingredient to child well-being, making sure that families can access stable housing, and put food on the table, and provide resources for their children,” said Hamilton.

Hamilton said there’s a struggle in Missouri and nationally with lack of affordable and accessible childcare. The data book says that childcare costs have risen 220% since the publication of the first Kids Count report in 1990.

“In Missouri, the cost is a little less for toddlers than the national cost. It’s about $8,900 a year, but that still is about 30% of a single parent’s income. With rising rent, and food and gas prices, it really creates a dire situation for families,” she said.

“America’s child care system is broken,” the report says. “Safe, reliable child care has largely been inaccessible and unaffordable for too many Americans. The child care system’s inadequacies hinder family economic mobility and perpetuate generational wealth gaps.”

Kids Count researchers said childcare workers are paid less than 98% of professions, with median national pay for child care workers of $13.71 an hour last year, compared to $14.26 for retail workers and $18.16 for those in customer service.

“More than 60% of childcare workers reported having difficulty paying their own food and utility bills in the most recent month,” the report said.

About 86,000 Missouri children do not have health insurance and about 34% of Missouri children, ages 10 to 17, are overweight or obese.

The Kids Count information says conditions have helped fuel what the U.S. surgeon general has called a mental health pandemic for youth. According to the data book, the incidence of anxiety and depression among kids has spiked. Comparing pre-pandemic to the first year of the COVID-19 crisis: The share of children struggling to make it through the day rose nearly 26% — from 9.4% (5.8 million kids) in 2016 to 11.8% (7.3 million kids) in 2020.

“Children in America are in the midst of a mental health crisis, struggling with anxiety and depression at unprecedented levels,” the state-by-state report card said. “The coronavirus pandemic has brought children trauma and tremendous loss over the past two and a half years.”

Kids Count ranks Missouri 22nd in education.

“Over the last year, access to preschool improved but fourth grade reading, eighth grade math proficiency, and high school graduation, the trend was not going in the right direction,” she said.

In the overall ranking of child well-being, Missouri ranks ahead of half of its neighboring states:

•Iowa ranks 6th
•Nebraska ranks 8th
•Kansas ranks 17th
•Illinois ranks 19th
•Tennessee ranks 36th
•Kentucky ranks 40th
•Arkansas ranks 43rd
•Oklahoma ranks 46th

To view the 2023 Kids Count Data Book, click here.

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