West Virginia 44th in the Nation in Child Well-Being; In Bottom Ten in Four of Ten Categories, According to 2008 National KIDS COUNT Data Book

National trends in child well-being taken together have improved slightly since 2000, according to a report released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, but West Virginia remains 44th in the nation in child well-being.

In addition to being ranked 44th overall, West Virginia is in the bottom 10 in four of 10 measures of child well-being.

The state improved on six of the 10 measures affecting child well-being, experienced three setbacks and saw no change in one of the measures since the last report.

Improvements were seen in the child death rate, teen death rate, teen birth rate and percent of teens who are high school dropouts.

Disturbing setbacks occurred in the percent of low-birthweight babies, the infant mortality rate, and percent of children in single parent families.

The percent of teens who are high school dropouts remained unchanged.

"We all want the best for West Virginia's children. Every child in the state deserves an opportunity to succeed and become a productive citizen," said Margie Hale, Executive Director of the West Virginia KIDS COUNT Fund.

"We have made some important gains in child well-being over the years, but, if we really want West Virginia to prosper, our ranking of child well-being will have to be better than 44th in the nation," Hale said.

"As a state, we must invest in public structures we know will improve children's outcomes and support long-term economic prosperity, like high-quality childcare programs," she continued.

The national KIDS COUNT Data Book provides information and statistical trends on the needs and conditions of America's most disadvantaged children and families.

The 2008 report also looks at data on adolescents in the juvenile justice system.

In 2006, the estimated daily count of detained and committed youth in the custody of juvenile facilities in the United States was 92,854, of which 66% were in custody due to a non-violent offense.

In West Virginia, the daily count was 579, and, of those youth, 69% were in custody for non-violent offenses.

The Casey Foundation finds that young people who penetrate the systems deeply - those who end up confined in detention centers and training schools-suffer among the lowest odds of long-term success of any group of adolescents in our nation.

They will achieve less educationally, work less and for lower wages, fail more frequently to form enduring families, experience more chronic health problems (including addiction), and suffer more imprisonment than other adolescents.

Hale added that one of the most effective ways to keep youth out of the juvenile justice system is to improve the quality of their earliest learning experiences.

KIDS COUNT reports that 64,000 West Virginia children under age six spend a large part of their day in some form of childcare, and many of them are poor and at high risk for becoming part of the juvenile justice system, dropping out of school and being idol teens.

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