Kids’ index mixed

While the plight of North Carolina’s children has improved in some important areas, in other critical ones, including health insurance and daycare subsidies, it has deteriorated, a new report says.

The “2006 North Carolina Children’s Index” was published by Raleigh-based Action for Children North Carolina, formerly the N.C. Child Advocacy Institute, and includes information on more than 75 indicators affecting children’s well-being.

As of 2004, one in nine children in the state were not covered by health insurance, the report says, up 11 percent from 2000.

About 37,000 children are on the waiting list to receive child-care subsidies, and the number of children in regulated care receiving such assistance has dropped 13 percent from 2001 to 2005, the study says.

The percentage of children ages 14 to 18 using alcohol increased to more than four in 10, up almost 11 percent from 2001, the study says.

In other areas, however, children are better off.

Foster children experienced greater stability in their placements last year, with more than nine in 10 children changing placements two or fewer times, up from six in 10 moving three or more times in 2001.

The percentage of students scoring “proficient” on their end-of-grade tests increased over the past four years, up more than 16 percent for third graders and up more than 8 percent for eighth graders, the study says.

To stem the negative trends and stimulate the positive ones, the index recommends increasing federal, state and local funding for children’s programs, which have lacked the investment needed to keep pace with growing needs.

The state also must work on the public policy front, the report says, improving programs that support children and families.

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