|West Virginia has made little progress in the past year to improve the health and well-being of its children.|
Thatâs the conclusion of a report released this week: According to the 2021 Kids Count Data Book, the Mountain State ranks 44th out of the 50 states.
A local branch of this national organizationâWest Virginia Kids Countâis breaking down the numbers and looking at ways to help.
âOur mission is to provide the most trusted data about the well-being of children, and then we build alliances with others to advocate for what they need,â says Tricia Kingery, executive director of West Virginia Kids Count.
Their vision? To make West Virginia a great place to be a kid. However, this yearâs numbers tell a different story.
âSo every year we have a national data book that comes out and that is produced by the Annie E. Casey Foundation,â Kingery says.
It looks at what itâs like being a kid in the nation in four areas: Economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.
âIn the economic well-being domain, West Virginia ranks at 46. There are 70,000 children who live in poverty in West Virginia,â Kingery says.
Slightly better is West Virginiaâs ranking in education: 43rd.
âOne of the data indicators is young children ages three to four not in school; and weâre at 66 percent,â Kingery says.
In terms of health, the state ranks 43rd, and it ranks 37th for the quality of family and community.
The goal of this data is to get it into the hands of people who can make decisions that help childrenâlike policymakers and healthcare experts.
âThe two issues weâre really focusing on this year is diversity and youth engagement,â says Kasidi Legg, diversity and inclusion program manager for West Virginia Kids Count.
Theyâve created a state-wide youth council to allow them to engage with problems they face in their own counties, and they are also creating a diversity awareness campaign for African American leaders across the state to mentor kids.
âPeople are leaving. You know, people are moving away, people are not coming into West Virginia. So itâs really important to empower youth, to set them up for success,â Legg says.
West Virginia Kids Count takes the information released in the nationally-ranked report and breaks them down even further by county. Those numbers will be released in the fall.