The 2011 West Virginia KIDS COUNT Data Book released this week asks the question, "Is West Virginia a great place to be kid?"

And, according to KIDS COUNT's 20th annual report on the well-being of West Virginia's children, the answer is a decidedly mixed bag with some key indicators showing dramatic improvements and others pointing to alarming declines.

For instance, since 2005, the child abuse and neglect rate has improved by 21.8%; the teen injury/death rate has improved by 15.4%; and the child death rate has improved by 8.8%.

However, during the same period, the percent of births to unmarried teens got 13% worse; and the teen birth rate worsened by 10.9%.

There are dramatic differences in some of the statistics from county to county.

"In 2011, KIDS COUNT established a vision of making West Virginia a great place to be a kid, which is a goal we know every West Virginian shares with us," said Margie Hale, Executive Director of KIDS COUNT.

"Since 2005, West Virginia has become a significantly safer place to be a kid. But, we are very alarmed more babies are being born to teens and more of those teens are unmarried." "These babies need strong public supports that will help them overcome the risk factors that threaten their well-being. That's why KIDS COUNT continues to advocate for important state investments to improve the quality of childcare."

High-quality childcare has been proven time and again as an effective tool for ensuring that our youngest and most at-risk children get the great start they deserve," Hale said.

To read the 2011 statewide profile see wvkidscount.org

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