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N.D. Ranks Well in Child Well-being, But Concerns Exist

While 14 percent of North Dakota children live in families with incomes below the official poverty level, many more children are in need of financial assistance.

According to the national KIDS COUNT program, North Dakota ranks seventh best in the nation on child well-being indicators. This high ranking is largely due to low rates of high school dropouts, children living in families where no parent has full-time/year-round employment, teens who are not in school and not working, children living with single parents and low birth weight babies.

Every year since the KIDS COUNT program research began, North Dakota has ranked in the top 10 states. Despite the high national ranking, challenges do exist for children and families throughout the state.

This month’s edition of the “Population Bulletin,” released from the North Dakota State Data Center at North Dakota State University, presents selected indicators from the 2008 “North Dakota KIDS COUNT Fact Book” (http://www.ndkidscount.org). The 2008 edition marks the 14th year the publication has been produced by the North Dakota KIDS COUNT program. The program is part of a nationwide network founded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation to collect information on the status of children.

Data included in the annual publication covers issues affecting children from birth through adolescence and offers a road map to a better understanding of the challenges facing North Dakota’s children.

Some of the concerns raised in this year’s “North Dakota KIDS COUNT Fact Book” focus on the economy. While 14 percent of North Dakota children live in families with incomes below the official poverty level, many more children are in need of financial assistance. Twenty percent receive food stamps, 23 percent health-care assistance through Medicaid and 32 percent of schoolchildren receive free or reduced-price lunches.

In addition, while the number of children in North Dakota has been declining (10 percent since 2000), the number of children receiving food stamps grew 13 percent from 2000 to 2007 and the number of schoolchildren receiving free or reduced-price lunches remained relatively unchanged during this time.

These economic challenges faced by North Dakota children and their families are not equally shared throughout the state. These statewide percentages do not necessarily reflect what’s going on in individual counties. In more than half of North Dakota counties (31 of 53), at least one out of every three students received free or reduced-price lunches in 2007. In seven North Dakota counties, more than one out of two students received free or reduced-price lunches.

“We face some important challenges because the future of North Dakota rests in our ability to provide safe and economically secure environments for our children,” says Richard Rathge, North Dakota KIDS COUNT program executive director. “We need to recognize that solid children form the building blocks of solid economies and communities.”

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Richard Rathge, (701) 231-8621, richard.rathge@ndsu.edu
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, richard.mattern@ndsu.edu


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