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Local News

Annual Child Well-Being Report Ranks Georgia 38th Among States

Credit: iStock

Mary Schuermann Kuhlman

Children in Georgia are facing unprecedented levels of anxiety and depression, according to the 2022 Kids Count Data Book, released this week by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The report found mental health is a concern across the country, as kids felt the pressures from COVID-19.

Rebecca Rice, Kids Count manager for the Georgia Family Connection Partnership, said nationally, nearly 12% of children had anxiety or depression.

“Between 2016 and 2000, anxiety and depression in children in Georgia increased by almost two percentage points,” Rice reported. “Which is a pretty significant jump in a short period of time. I think we all feel that the pandemic played a part in that.”

Overall, Georgia ranked 38th among states in the report, improving in all four economic measures, including child poverty and children whose parents lack secure employment. The state also improved in fourth grade reading proficiency and eighth grade math proficiency, as well as high school students who graduate on time.

Georgia ranked 45th among states for health. Indicators where the state did worse are youths who are overweight or obese, deaths among children and teens, and low-birth-weight babies, which Rice said affects 10% of infants.

“It is the single strongest predictor of mortality within the first year of an infant’s life,” Rice pointed out. “But it also tells us that we need to do work on maternal health and women of childbearing age to make sure that we are giving women the best start as they reach their childbearing years. “

Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said when examining the data over the past decade, there are encouraging trends.

“Children today have better access to early education,” Boissiere noted. “Children have better access or more access to health insurance. And there’s a tremendous sense of optimism among young people in terms of their ability and their desire to make this country better than it already is.”

Boissiere added policymakers should seize on the optimism and enact policies to help all children and young people thrive across the country.

Disclosure: The Annie E Casey Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Children’s Issues, Criminal Justice, Early Childhood Education, Education, Juvenile Justice, and Welfare Reform. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

This story was written by Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, an Ohio-based journalist, where this story first appeared.