Kentucky has slipped to 37th place in a national ranking of states that provide a safe, secure and healthy childhood.
The second annual report End of Childhood State Ranking 2018 by the international nonprofit Save the Children ranks states by factors that can prevent children from thriving. Those factors include violence, poverty, malnutrition, child abuse, incomplete education and homelessness.
Kentucky has slipped four places since last year to 37th in the U.S. for states that provide consistent food, housing, prenatal care, safety from violence and abuse and access to early childhood educational opportunites.
Shane Garver is director for U.S. field operations for Save the Children and is based in Berea, Kentucky. He said priority issues in the Bluegrass State include teen pregnancy and access to prenatal care for all women, especially when that’s complicated by rural isolation and poverty.
“In many counties there’s not a hospital at all and they have to travel several counties away to deliver,” said Garver.
He said another important issue is access to preschool because the benefits have been shown to help kids be successful through all their school years.
Across the U.S., one in five children grows up in poverty. Of the U.S. counties with the highest poverty rates, 90 percent are rural. Poverty in rural areas keeps millions of children from reaching their potential.
“It’s not uncommon here in Kentucky to see communities where it’s 35 to 50 percent of rural children living in poverty,” said Garver.
The impact of negative factors on childhood has pushed the U.S. behind many other countries when it comes to providing kids with an enviroment and services to allow them to fulfill their potential.
According to the report, America ranks 36th in the world in providing a safe, secure and healthy environment for children. The U.S. ranks behind Norway, France and the United Kingdom and even lags behind Portugal, Spain, Japan, Lithuania and Greece.
The best states for childhood in the U.S., according to the report, are Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and North Dakota. The worst states for children to grow up in are New Mexico, Oklahoma, Mississippi at 49th and Louisiana ranking 50th.