Government spending on young children would be the best investment for child well-being, according to a new report covering 30 developed countries. At the beginning of September, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released its first-ever report on child well-being. Doing Better for Children, available at www.oecd.org/els/social/childwellbeing, compares outcomes across six indicators, including housing, education, and risk behaviors.
The report shows that the United States spends less than average on children 6 and younger, but spends more than average on children and youth generally, compared to other countries. Despite the higher levels of spending, however, U.S. children fare worse than many of their international peers in health, education, and poverty measures. According to the study, which only compares the 30 OECD member countries, the United States ranks 4th worst in infant mortality and 5th worst in child mortality. The rate of births to teenage mothers is more than three times the OECD average, putting the United States as second-worst in this category, behind Mexico. Child poverty in the United States is nearly double the OECD average, at 21.6% and 12.4%, and the number of U.S. children who lack "key educational possessions" is the 5th worst in the group.
OECD countries with higher relative spending on their youngest children include Finland, France, Hungary, Iceland, and Norway. The United States is joined by Ireland, Japan, The Netherlands, and New Zealand in spending relatively less on children 6 and under.
Doing Better for Children also offers policy recommendations, which include balancing spending between the "'Dora the Explorer' years of early childhood and the teenage 'Facebook' years." The OECD says that providing better pre- and postnatal services and improving early childhood education, especially for disadvantaged children and families, can promote well-being for all children.
"The crisis is putting pressure on public budgets across the world. But any short-term savings on spending on children's education and health would have major long-term costs for society," OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurr said in a press release. "Governments should instead seize this opportunity to get better value from their investment in children. And spending early, when the foundations for a child's future are laid, is key especially for disadvantaged children and can help them break out of a family cycle of poverty and social exclusion."
Mykal Cochran, a 17-year-old foster child, successfully received his second heart transplant in Seattle, thanks to Cindy Locke and her family, according to a Seattle Times article. Mykal underwent his first heart transplant at age 2 after a heart tumor diagnosis. Late last year, he suffered from another heart ailment and needed a second transplant; however, he was not accepted to the transplant program given that he was one of the thousands of children in the Washington foster care system without a permanent home. Without a stable home and a social network, he was deemed a transplant risk. His social worker, Shauna Campbell, had to search for a foster family who could care for him before and after the operation.
Cindy Locke, a licensed foster care provider, contacted Campbell and offered to care for Mykal. Locke is a former registered nurse at Seattle Children's Hospital and has a 23-year history of caring for medically frail foster children. She and her husband have three biological children and three adopted children. The Times reports that Mykal is healthy and happy, and he is considering staying with the Lockes to finish high school. He aspires to go to college, go cliff diving, and study pyrotechnics.
According to WebMD, a new study found that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drug abuse in adolescents rose 76% between 1998 and 2005. This study, published in Pediatrics, tracked calls to poison control centers from callers between the ages of 13 and 19. The number of calls for ADHD drug abuse is higher when compared to other forms of substance abuse. ADHD affects 8-12% of children, and 4% of adults worldwide; therefore there is a strong demand for ADHD stimulant drugs, the two types of which are methylphenidates and amphetamines. The percentage of the abuse, however, exceeds the percentage of sales. Researchers state that adolescents are taking the drugs correctly, but abuse is becoming more widespread because more people have easy access to them.
The Center for the Study of Social Policy, a CWLA member, recently launched PolicyForResults.org (http://policyforresults.org), a web-based initiative to help policymakers govern more effectively by providing research and evidence they need to enact policies to improve the lives of children and families. The website gives governors, state legislators, agency administrators, and those who advise them clear examples of why a certain policy direction is important for children and families based on evidence of effectiveness; what policies are succeeding in other states; and how to tailor policy to their own state's conditions. PolicyForResults.org also connects policymakers to "two-generation" approaches that lift up children and their parents at the same time, with an emphasis on policies that close gaps and achieve equitable outcomes for all families.
In late August the Urban Institute debuted an interactive web-based resource: The Children of Immigrants Data Tool. Users can generate detailed charts of the characteristics of children 17 and under nationwide, or in individual states. Statistics on 21 features include citizenship and the immigrant status of children and their parents; children's race, ethnicity, and school enrollment; parents' education and English proficiency; and family composition, income, and work effort. The child and parents' citizenship and immigrant status can be used as reference points for comparisons. The data comes from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey.
The Urban Institute estimates that there are 16.4 million children-more than one in five-with foreign-born parents. The data tool is available at http://datatool.urban.org. A companion publication, Children of Immigrants: National and State Characteristics, is also available from the Urban Institute.
Materials from this summer's National Child Welfare Evaluation Summit-PowerPoint presentations, handouts, and other resource lists from the summit's panels, workshops, and discussions-are available online through James Bell Associates. To download the materials, visit www.jbassoc.com/reports/summary.aspx and scroll down to the heading "2009 National Child Welfare Evaluation Summit, Washington, DC." The documents are listed in the same order as the workshops/panels in the agenda. The names of the presenters are also included. Other documents and publications are available on the same webpage.
Did You Know?
Texas has had the largest percentage of uninsured children in the country for 9 of the last 10 years. Aransas County, on the Gulf Coast, had the lowest rate of uninsured children according to 2005 statistics, with 13.8% of children uninsured. This information comes from the Texas State Data Center via the Annie E. Casey Foundation's KIDS COUNT Data Book and the online Data Center, available at http://datacenter.kidscount.org. The online data center has customizable graphs, maps, and charts for use in agency presentations and websites. New this year is community-level data. The most recent KIDS COUNT Data Book was released in July.
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