Improving lives of children takes teamwork

By Robin Costello

The most recent Kids Count Report released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranks North Carolina 40th in the nation on 10 indicators of child well-being.

As citizens, we should pause and reflect on what that means for a state that, in many other ways, is thriving.

Not only does our state rank low; it ranks worse than the national average on every key indicator, and in the bottom 10 on four of the indicators.

For example:

* North Carolina ranks 45th nationally for school drop-outs.

* Median income for families with children totals $42,000, or 16% below the national average.

* Almost half of all our children are low-income.

Still, we do some things well.

Our state ranks in the top 10 for the percentage of two-year-olds who have been immunized, but the state budget crisis threatened Health Choice and Medicaid this year – the mechanisms for getting children their immunizations.

What does this mean to all of us who are not necessarily touched personally by such troubling statistics?

It means we have significant work to accomplish together.

All 2 million children and youth in North Carolina must have an equal opportunity for success, health and well-being.

We can and should do better.

As citizens, voice your concerns to build a sense of commitment to children in each of our communities.

Ask officials making budget decisions, business leaders who provide jobs, philanthropies investing in research-based programs and strategies, faith communities and others to make children North Carolina’s political and social priority.

If each county can avert two child deaths next year, the state will rank in the top half of states in Casey’s next report.

More importantly, 200 additional children will grow into adulthood.

Isn’t that what we should be hoping for — that every child has the opportunity to experience happiness and grow up to become an adult with dreams to fulfill is important to building strong communities and a strong state?

Collectively, let’s decide to ensure the health, viability and economic future of our children.

Robin Costello is senior director of development and external relations for ot the North Carolina Child Advocacy Institute in Raleigh.

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