Florida’s kids in crisis, report says

07/25/07 Seán Kinane
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Many of Florida’s children are doing worse than the country’s average, according to a report released today.

The 2007 Kids Count Data Book points out that nearly one in five of Florida’s children live in poverty, 24,000 more than last year.

Amanda Ostrander, deputy communications director for the Children’s Campaign Inc., says these statistics are a result of Florida’s policy priorities.

“The Kids Count Data Book is released every year and they have 10 well-being indicators that talk about how children are doing. Florida has remained pretty consistently in the lower third of the states; this year our rank was 32.

"Overall, everything for children has remained relatively stagnant. Although our economy in the last couple of years has been very high, children continue to not really be reaping the benefits of that change. And obviously, that comes down to the differences in policy priorities here in the state.”

According to Ostrander, Florida’s ranking in child well being is 32nd, compared with the state’s rank in per-capita income, which is 23rd.

“We are a pretty wealthy state when it comes to overall. And what happens is that children are one of the groups in the policy-making process that don’t have a voice. They can be set aside because there are other very loud, very vocal people who are going to have the option to vote and make differences ... their issues tend to come before the children’s issues. And I think that’s one of the major things that Florida has been facing in the past couple of years: the lack of children’s issues as a true priority.”

Nearly two-thirds of a million of Florida’s children do not have health insurance.

Ostrander said that one reason the number is so large is because the state has not committed enough resources to its KidCare health insurance program that insures children who are 200 percent below the federal poverty line.

Adequately funding KidCare, according to Ostrander, would result in savings to Floridians because of lower health insurance and medical costs, and increased federal funding.

“When it comes down to children without health insurance, the major issue we have as a state is needing to really focus on these preventative measures like our KidCare program that will bring down money from the federal government, money that Florida is rightfully owed, and help insure children, lowering our health costs.”

As a consequence of Florida’s high rates of uninsured children, the state has low rankings in several categories of children’s health, Ostrander said.

“The percentage of low birth weight babies, infant mortality rate, child death rate, all continues to remain pretty constant across the board, ranking us in the lower half and lower third in each one of the major indicators.”

The state let more than 1,300 foster children “age out” of the system with no permanent family connection. But Ostrander thinks that leadership on children’s issues could improve Florida’s statistics and improve the lives of children in Florida.

“What the new administration has the opportunity to do, and I think that Gov. Crist spoke so eloquently about in his State of the State address, is ... making sure that we’re giving these children the foundation at the forefront of policy work. And, if that’s the case, then I think that we will see change.”

If you would like to read the report, visit kidscount.org.

WMNF attempted but was unable to reach the Florida Department of Children and Families for comment by airtime.

Lean more:

2007 Kids Count Data Book

Hillsborough Kids

Children’s Campaign Inc

Florida Department of Children and Families

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