Each year, the Annie E. Casey Foundation comes out with a Kids Count data book measuring the well-being of children by looking at several key areas, including education, health, economic and community factors. If you look at the 2017 edition, Indiana seems to be doing pretty well in several areas.
Teen substance abuse in Indiana has dropped by 30 percent. Children with health insurance has improved to 93 percent, and fewer families have a high housing burden, which is spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs.
But the state doesn’t look so good in other areas. The teen death rate increased by 11 percent from 2010 to 2015. Also, 13 percent are still living in poverty. Education continues to be a problem — 61 percent of Indiana eighth graders are not proficient in math and 60 percent of fourth graders are not reading at the proper level.
And if you look at the overall rating, Indiana is right in the middle of the pack, at the low end — ranking 28th out of 50 states. That shows a continued gradual improvement — up from two spots from last year and four from the year before last. And we continue to be on a par with states around us such as Ohio, Kentucky and Illinois
That’s not good enough. We can and should do better. As one advocacy group says, Hoosier children “are surviving but not thriving.”
“We know that our kids need more support, and we need to do more to make sure they’re living up to their full potential and that they’re living happy, healthy and productive lives,” Indiana Youth Institute President Tamil Silverman told an Indianapolis TV station.
This would be a good topic for one of those summer study committees the General Assembly is famous for. There will be no magic bullet, but legislators can find approaches worthy of trying.
Not all of them will cost money, but for the ones that do, the state has plenty of it in surplus. Being frugal has given Indiana the flexibility when there is a need. This is a need.
But we should not look just to government. Individuals can make a difference in some areas.
It is our legal and moral duty, for example, to report any suspicion of child abuse or neglect to the proper authorities. Indiana law makes that a responsibility of all citizens, not just those who work in child care fields.