Georgia, joining the rest of the South, once again ranks in the bottom ten for overall child well being, according to a new report released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
As Georgia’s conservative leaders love to remind us, we’re the number one state for business, but these policies don’t seem to make us the number one state for child wellness.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation has been compiling these measures — related to economic stability of family, access to education, health and safety, and family and community support — for over two decades.
And the numbers are astounding.
Two-thirds of our fourth graders are not proficient in math; three in ten students do not graduate on time; low birth weights are far too commonplace at almost ten percent of all births (an indicator that mom might not be getting nutritional or other support she needs during the pregnancy); and 17 percent of our kids live in high poverty areas.
What was on Governor Deal’s mind when this news was hitting? Well, just this week he was celebrating the deepening of the Panama Canal, a move that Deal’s government sees as being good for business interests.
While Deal’s office seems to have nothing to say on the matter of how poorly Georgia’s children are faring — or at least not with any sense of urgency — the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) just announced new plans to revamp how they work on child welfare. However, any new plans are tempered by the the continued resource deficit the Department faces. Even after recent budget increases, the DFCS still has only about 80 percent of its staffing needs met, and faces a turnover rate of 32 percent for caseworkers on the front lines.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation report also comes on the heels of other recent news about how poorly Georgia is investing in our state’s children.
The AJC covered how little Georgia spends on public education compared to the rest of the nation, a gap of $1,807, and with significant disparities between districts.
The Georgia Budget and Policy Institute also released a report detailing how few eligible children access free meals over the summer months, when school is out of session. Less than one fifth of eligible children take advantage of the program, which can help curb childhood hunger.
For now, Georgia will continue to be the number one state for business — the number one state to find poorly paid labor and big tax breaks for bringing just a few jobs. But maybe if we invested in our children and families — and the policies needed to support working parents — we could be the number one state for child well being, too?