Instagram Series Spotlights Child Well-Being Trends in Four States

Posted October 27, 2022
Images of domain dive participants are pictured. From left to right: Karina Jimenez Lewis, Juliet A. Summers, Cecilia Zalkind, Marie Frances Rivera, and Moe Hickey.

The Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion recent­ly released the 33rd edi­tion of the KIDS COUNT® Data Book*. The annu­al pub­li­ca­tion is packed with the lat­est child well-being trends, data insights and rec­om­men­da­tions for pol­i­cy­mak­ers. To explore its com­plex­i­ties, Kari­na Jiménez Lewis, Casey’s asso­ciate direc­tor of Pol­i­cy Reform and Advo­ca­cy, invit­ed four part­ner orga­ni­za­tions to par­tic­i­pate in a series of Insta­gram Live con­ver­sa­tions called Domain Dives.

The 2022 Data Book opens with a fore­word from Pres­i­dent and CEO Lisa Hamil­ton, focused on how chil­dren in Amer­i­ca are in the midst of a men­tal health cri­sis, strug­gling with anx­i­ety and depres­sion at unprece­dent­ed lev­els. It goes on to pro­vide nation­al and state data updates across four domains — eco­nom­ic well-being, edu­ca­tion, fam­i­ly and com­mu­ni­ty and health. States are ranked in each of the respec­tive domains as well as for over­all child well-being. This year, the top-ranked states were:

  • Mass­a­chu­setts — over­all child well-being and health;
  • Nebras­ka — eco­nom­ic well-being;
  • New Jer­sey — edu­ca­tion; and
  • Utah — fam­i­ly and community.

Assign­ing a top spot is com­plex. It’s cer­tain­ly an achieve­ment and can offer insight into approach­es that improve child well-being. How­ev­er, it’s impor­tant to also remem­ber the chal­lenges that a state may face when look­ing at nuances such as dis­ag­gre­gat­ed data, demo­graph­ics or policies. 

While each of the four Insta­gram Live con­ver­sa­tions explored its state’s top domain rank­ing, they also covered:

  • pol­i­cy rec­om­men­da­tions for oth­er states; 
  • the effects of the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic on child well-being; and 
  • how future advo­ca­cy may be shaped amidst a child men­tal health crisis. 

Watch the con­ver­sa­tions below and fol­low the Foun­da­tion on Insta­gram.

Domain Dive: Eco­nom­ic Well-Being

Juli­et A. Sum­mers, exec­u­tive direc­tor, Voic­es for Chil­dren in Nebraska

Watch the Conversation

At Voic­es for Chil­dren, we see this rank­ing isn’t just a moment for Nebraskans to be num­ber one, but a chance for us to dig in and say how can we move the nee­dle more and make sure that when we say all kids deserve the good life, that we real­ly mean all kids. And I want to be explic­it that I’m talk­ing about chil­dren and fam­i­lies and neigh­bor­hoods of col­or… I think one of our biggest blind spots if you look at our statewide over­all rank­ing, Nebras­ka is a very major­i­ty white, non-His­pan­ic state and when we dis­ag­gre­gate these indi­ca­tors by race and eth­nic­i­ty we real­ly get a much dif­fer­ent pic­ture for kids.
— Juli­et A. Summers

Domain Dive: Education

Cecil­ia Zalkind, pres­i­dent and CEO, Advo­cates for New Jer­sey’s Children

Watch the Conversation

We’ve looked a lot at the fac­tors that con­tribute to school suc­cess. So, for exam­ple, we had a high­ly suc­cess­ful school break­fast cam­paign about 10 years ago. … We were among the worst states in the coun­try to serve chil­dren break­fast, and [the] cam­paign ensured 100,000 more chil­dren had access…there are all kinds of fac­tors like health and [parental] employ­ment. New Jer­sey to me has always been sen­si­tive to the aca­d­e­mics, but also to the issues that impact school suc­cess.
— Cecil­ia Zalkind

Domain Dive: Health

Marie-Frances Rivera, pres­i­dent, Mass­a­chu­setts Bud­get and Pol­i­cy Center

Watch the Conversation

In a state like Mass­a­chu­setts where peo­ple think we’re doing well … if you dig even more deeply into that, some of the stats around Black and brown kids and Black young peo­ple specif­i­cal­ly and how dire the find­ings were around their men­tal health was quite shock­ing and a wake-up call…one in five Black kids in Mass­a­chu­setts is suf­fer­ing from anx­i­ety or depres­sion and ranks us real­ly low, in the bot­tom three across the nation, for Black kids and their men­tal health.
— Marie-Frances Rivera

Domain Dive: Fam­i­ly and Community

Moe Hick­ey, exec­u­tive direc­tor, Voic­es for Utah Children

Watch the Conversation

Utah in the big pic­ture is not a huge­ly pop­u­lat­ed state and that’s an oppor­tu­ni­ty. … Let’s invest in chil­dren because that’s the best place as a state we can invest. If we can make sure that all our chil­dren are healthy, that they’re in a safe envi­ron­ment for child care, if they have access to prop­er edu­ca­tion … these are very sim­ple steps and we’re not that big that we can’t make sure that this does take place.
— Moe Hickey

Each guest rep­re­sents an orga­ni­za­tion in the KIDS COUNT Net­work, whose mem­bers advo­cate in all 50 states, the Dis­trict of Colum­bia, Puer­to Rico and the U.S. Vir­gin Islands for smart, data-informed pub­lic pol­i­cy pro­mot­ing the well-being of young peo­ple. These four orga­ni­za­tions work close­ly with the Foun­da­tion on data col­lec­tion, advo­ca­cy and oth­er child and fam­i­ly well-being strate­gies in their respec­tive top-ranked states.

These oppor­tu­ni­ties to chat with state lead­ers con­firm once again that child well-being is com­plex,” says Kari­na Jiménez Lewis. There are so many unique fac­tors in each state and region, and some­times data can only touch on so much — assum­ing there is enough of it. It’s impor­tant to reflect on what advo­cates see on the ground as we try to sta­bi­lize the ris­ing anx­i­ety and depres­sion among the youngest mem­bers of our soci­ety. Our advo­cates in the KIDS COUNT Net­work are in the best posi­tion to know the data and pol­i­cy con­text in their states, and we are deeply grate­ful for their exper­tise and influence.”

*A note about the data: The report includes pre-pan­dem­ic fig­ures as well as more recent sta­tis­tics, and shares the lat­est infor­ma­tion of its kind avail­able. While the 2022 report was able to cap­ture how kids may have been far­ing as the pan­dem­ic began, find­ings on the effects of COVID-19 on kids are expect­ed to change as more data is released.

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