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Report: Children's well-being gets slightly better in South Carolina, while poverty worsens

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COLUMBIA, South Carolina — The overall wellbeing of South Carolina's children has improved slightly, even while poverty continues to worsen, according to a national report released Tuesday.

The latest Kids Count Data Book, released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, shows that South Carolina ranks 42nd overall in a child's chance of succeeding. That's up from 45th last year and the highest ranking South Carolina's achieved in the report's 25-year existence.

States received separate rankings in the areas of economics, education, health, and family and community.

On economic measures, South Carolina showed only decline or stagnation.

More than one in four children lives in poverty. That's about 292,000 children. By percentage, childhood poverty worsened from 22 percent in 2008 to 27 percent in 2013.

Even more children live in households without job security. The parents of 35 percent of children — or 356,000 — lack a secure job, meaning no parent has full-time, year-round employment. That's up from 30 percent in 2008.

South Carolina posted mixed results on family and community measures.

More than 40 percent of children live in single-parent homes, up 3 percentage points from 2008. Meanwhile, the state's single biggest improvement came in teen births. The number of girls 15 to 19 giving birth — per 1,000 — declined to 32, a 19-point drop from 2008.

Health is the only category where South Carolina showed across-the-board improvement, ranking 36th nationwide.

Compared to 2008, fewer babies weighed less than 5.5 pounds at birth. Fewer children and teens died, of any cause. There were slightly fewer reported cases of teens abusing drugs or alcohol. And more children had health insurance coverage.

In 2013, 73,000 children lacked health insurance, or 7 percent. That's an improvement from 13 percent in 2008.

A year earlier, the GOP-controlled Legislature passed a law increasing children's eligibility for Medicaid — allowing parents' incomes to reach 200 percent of the federal poverty level. But the state did little to publicize the benefit until 2011, when South Carolina's Medicaid agency reformed the application process to make it easier for parents to sign their children up and keep them enrolled.

This year, a single parent can earn up to $23,500 annually, and a family of four can earn up to $48,500, and still get Medicaid coverage for their children.

Republican lawmakers have refused to expand Medicaid eligibility for adults. To qualify, parents' take-home pay can't exceed 50 percent of federal poverty guidelines.

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