COLUMBIA — South Carolina ranks better than just five states in the overall wellbeing of its children, according to a national report released Monday.
The Kids Count survey from the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that the overall ranking of the state’s children slipped two spots from last year’s report, to 45th overall in children’s ability to succeed.
The report uses a variety of indicators to come up with a state’s ranking, including economics, education and health. Kids Count ranked South Carolina children’s economic well-being at 44th in the country, a drop of nine spots from last year.
Twenty-eight percent of children – or 297,000 kids – were living in poverty in 2011, compared with 23 percent in 2005. Thirty-five percent of South Carolina’s children lived in homes where parents lacked secure employment, up from 30 percent in 2008.
Sue Williams of the Children’s Trust of South Carolina attributed that indicator to high state unemployment, which, at 8 percent last month, ranked 14th-highest in the nation.
“Growing up in poverty is one of the greatest threats to healthy child development,” the report noted. “The risks posed by economic hardship are greatest among children who experience poverty when they are young and among children who experience persistent and deep poverty.”
There were some improvements, including in the area of children’s health. Only
8 percent of South Carolina’s children were listed as without health insurance in 2011, compared with 13 percent in 2008. The percentage of low-birth weight babies dropped from 10.2 in 2005 to 9.9 in 2010.
Education also had bright spots. Between 2009 and 2011, 55 percent of the state’s children weren’t in preschool, an improvement from 59 percent from 2005 to 2007. The percentage of fourth-graders not proficient in reading improved from 74 percent in 2005 to 72 percent in 2011.
“As South Carolina copes with the lingering effects of a persistent recession, investing in strategies that support children and families is critical for South Carolina’s future,” Williams said in a release on the report. “Programs like home-visiting, preventing child abuse and neglect, and family strengthening are more important than ever.”