What Counts for Kids? Progress made

Over the last 25 years the Kids Count report has presented national data on 16 indicators measuring the wellbeing of children. During this time West Virginia has improved its ranking on 13 of the 16 indicators.

One of our best current rankings is the second lowest percentage of teens under the age of 17 abusing alcohol and drugs. We have also improved the ranking for parents who have completed high school, and we have shown significant improvement in other areas.

The new policy of universal access to preschool is for all 4-year-olds, but not for 3-year-olds. Last year the Head Start Program in WV served 400,000 3-year-olds; however, that program does not offer a language rich environment to meet the needs of children who do not experience reading at home.

Children in West Virginia are covered under the Children’s Health Insurance Program, but the state ranks 33rd in family and community health. West Virginia ranks 28th for the economic wellbeing of children, and more than a third of children in our state live in single-parent households. There is no simple answer to the question of what really matters for children. Clearly we are making progress according to some indicators, but West Virginia’s eighth-grade math proficiency scores are among the lowest in the nation. The facts do not add up to better future jobs for young people in the Mountain State.