Indiana ranked 27th in child well-being according to national report

Hoosier kids got higher marks in education but slipped in health this year. In Elkhart County, fewer teens are having babies and more kids are getting free lunches.

Posted on July 22, 2014 at 9:44 a.m.

More Elkhart County kids rely on government-subsidized lunches.

Fewer teens, though, are having children. And the number child cases involving of neglect, sexual abuse and physical abuse here is trending down.

Numbers for Elkhart County and Indiana were published in a national report released Tuesday, July 22, on the state of U.S. kids. The numbers suggest a measure of economic distress, on the one hand, but improvement in indicators of safety, on the others.

Statewide, the figures from the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2014 Kids Count Data Book show that Indiana ranked 27th nationally in overall child well-being among the 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C. That’s up from 30th place last year.

Here are some highlights from the new statewide numbers and the Elkhart County data that helped shape the Indiana figures:

  • Among those aged 17 or younger in Elkhart County, poverty measured 21.2 percent in 2012, down from 27.4 percent the year before. The share of public school kids getting free or reduced-price lunches in 2012 totaled 56.4 percent, up from 50 percent from three years earlier.
  • The teen birth rate from 2008 to 2011 dropped by nearly half in Elkhart County.
  • The number of children in need of services, or CHINS, to use Indiana Department of Child Services vernacular, totaled 214 in 2012 in Elkhart County, down from 452 in 2009.
  • Likewise, the number of child neglect cases substantiated in Elkhart County by the DCS fell to 221 in 2012, down from 349 three years before. The number of child sexual abuse cases fell more than 40 percent from 2009 to 2012 and the child physical abuse case total dipped from 70 to 58.
  • The number of juvenile delinquency case filings in Elkhart County totaled 496 in 2012, down from 745 in 2009.

Here are highlights from the statewide totals:

  • Indiana kids, overall, garnered higher marks nationwide in economic well-being, rising to 19th place in 2014, up from 26th last year. In education, Indiana ranked 26th, up from 34th.
  • In health, Indiana slipped, from 21st place to 27th. Even so, specific measures in the category showed improvement — fewer low-birth weight babies and fewer teens who abuse drug and alcohol, for instance. Improvement in other states, though, was apparently more pronounced.

Reps from the Indiana Youth Institute, which gathered Indiana data used in the national study, attributed Indiana’s improved overall ranking, from 30th to 27th place nationally, to better education test scores among students.

Still, IYI President Bill Stanczykiewicz offered cautionary words because “so many students still lack proficiency in reading and math.” The child poverty rate in Indiana, 22 percent in 2012, is still high, the IYI noted, and Stanczykiewicz said improvement in education would go a long in reducing that figure.

Follow reporter Tim Vandenack on Twitter at @timvandenack or visit him on Facebook.

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