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Durham Herald Sun

A new report out last week served as yet another reminder that, in the present-day United States, millions of families are mired in poverty.

The annual “Kids Count” report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation provides a wealth of information about how children are faring in America – and gives detailed state-by-state assessments. While there are encouraging signs, much of the news is not good.

For example, the report spotlights 16 metrics to track how children are doing in economic well-being, education, health and family and community situations. On nearly half – seven – North Carolina saw our numbers remain unchanged or worsen.

On the bright side, we improved on all four key health measures. A particularly striking change was in children without health insurance. While 10 percent of children lacked insurance in 2008, by 2013 that rate had improved to only six percent. Still, that’s a shameful 140,000 children without insurance.

In terms of economic well-being, three of the four key measures worsened in the Tar Heel state in this year’s report. The other remained unchanged. One in four children in North Carolina lived in poverty in 2013 – more than half a million children. Five years earlier, one in five lived in poverty – we’re still five percentage points ahead of where we were before the Great Recession.

That mirrored a key theme of this year’s report – the recession may be history for us overall, but for many people, its effects are still a grim reality.

“Although we are several years past the end of the recession, millions of families still have not benefited from the economic recovery,” Patrick McCarthy, president and CEO of the Casey Foundation, said in a news release accompanying the report.

If the national picture is bleak, North Carolina’s is bleaker. We’re tied with Texas and Kentucky for the 11th highest rate of child poverty in the country.

“The gap between states with the best and worst child well-being is stark – and North Carolina sits on the wrong side of that divide,” Michelle Hughes, executive director of NC Child, a statewide policy and advocacy group, said as the report was released.

The Casey Foundation lays out avenues to improve our children’s well-being – providing parents with pathways to family-supporting jobs, ensuring access to high-quality early childhood education and “equipping parent to better support their children socially and emotionally.”

Says McCarthy, “We can and must do better: We can make policy choices to lift more families into economic stability.”

Those are sound marching orders. They are difficult, perhaps, but not impossible – and they are imperative.

Source: Our State’s Poor Ranking.

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