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This Year's KIDS COUNT Data Book Shows More Children Living in Poverty

7/5/2006:   National trends in child well-being are no longer improving in the steady way they did in the late 1990s, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation's 17th annual KIDS COUNT Data Book, released last week. Each year, the Data Book reports on the needs and conditions of America's most disadvantaged children and families, as well as on the statistical trends.

The 2006 Data Book shows that 3 out of 10 child well-being indicators have worsened since 2000. There were more than 13 million children living in poverty in 2004--an increase of 1 million over four years. There was also an increase in the percentage of low-birthweight babies between 2000 and 2003, and an increase in the number of children living in families where no parent has full-time, year-round employment.

"KIDS COUNT does contain good news in four areas: the child death rate and the teen death rate have fallen, the teen birth rate has continued to go down, and the high school dropout rate has improved," says William O'Hare, senior fellow at the Casey Foundation and author of the 2006 report. Looking across all well-being indicators, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Connecticut rank highest, and New Mexico, Louisiana, and Mississippi rank the lowest.

This year's KIDS COUNT Data Book includes an essay, "Family, Friend, and Neighbor Care: Strengthening a Critical Resource to Help Young Children Succeed," which zeroes in on a form of child care that has existed for decades but has been largely overlooked. Within the Data Book, the Casey Foundation defines friend, family, and neighbor care as a form of child care offered in a home- or family-based setting, outside of the child's own home, by regulated or unregulated providers. The definition of home- and family-based care differs among states, organizations, and advocates, which shows the need for greater attention and clarity in the field.

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