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Children’s Well-Being Up in VA, Poverty Remains an Issue

Posted: Updated: Jul 23, 2014 05:17 PM

The latest numbers are in and the well-being of Virginia's children ranks among the top in the nation. But although experts say we're on the right track, there's a looming threat emerging. 

While the health and wellness of children has continued to improve in Virginia, advocates and experts say poverty is the number one factor undermining that progress. And it all ties into the current debate over health insurance.

Children in Virginia now rank ninth in the country when it comes to overall well-being according to the 2014 KIDS COUNT Data Book out of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Last time, Virginia kids took the 11th spot.

"We're moving in the right direction, we're improving the well-being of Virginia's children. There are some positive trends that contribute to that,” said Ted Groves, KIDS COUNT Data Center director.

National testing shows reading and math levels have improved. On the health side, teen birth rates are down, and now more than 90 percent of children in the commonwealth have health insurance coverage.

"There are some worrisome trends, however. One of the most significant worrisome trends is the percent of children who live in poverty,” Groves said.

More than 15 percent of children in Virginia live in poverty. The economy has not been kind to all families, and changing structures of American households also inflates hardship. "So even though the economy seems to have gotten better, it hasn't gotten better for everyone or all the kids. Single parents have an increased chance of struggling financially," Groves stated.

The poverty rates also tie into the recent debate nationally and statewide on closing health insurance coverage gaps. Even with more children covered, financial burdens weigh heavy for parents without it.

"With those sorts of expenses, families can get into a lot of trouble and they can stay there,” said Ladelle McWhorter, vice president of Virginia Organizing's state governing board.

Analysts of the data say strategic policies to tackle poverty along with more community and employer support could help resolve the problem. Groves adds that more pathways should exist for parents to seek economic and educational opportunities.

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