Florida child well-being improves, but ranks 35th overall in nation

The well-being of Florida children living in poverty and those with unemployed parents improved prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, yet the state ranked 35th overall in the nation for child well-being. A report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation measured child well-being with 16 indicators across four categories: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. 

 

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The state ranked 31st in child health care. Florida had 343,000 uninsured children in 2019, the second highest number in the nation according to the Children’s Health Care Report Card.

Education was Florida’s strongest suit, with the state ranking 12th in the nation. High school students not graduating on time decreased from 29 percent from 2010 to2011 to 13 percent from 2018 to2019. However, behavioral health impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic remain uncertain, with many students transitioning to online school. 

Christine Cauffield, MD, CEO of Lutheran Services Florida Health Systems, was concerned about the increasing severity of child abuse cases. 

“We didn’t see an uptake initially in call-ins, because, frankly, the teachers often are the first reporters for cases of child abuse. Because the children were not in school, they are not being adequately reported. However our emergency rooms, certainly in our region really were struggling with the increased cases of the severity of the child abuse that was occurring.”

About 352,000 children in Florida lived in high-poverty areas in 2019, about eight percent of the population. Florida ranks 32nd in the nation in the family and community sector. 

Florida ranked 42nd in economic well being. In 2019, 36 percent of children lived in households with a high housing cost burden. This was a significant improvement from 2010, when almost half the child population fell in this category. However, the state still lags behind the national average, which was 30 percent in 2019.

Florida KIDS COUNT Director Norín Dollard, MD,  reflected on lessons learned from the pandemic and the work ahead.

“We were making progress in Florida, albeit slow. But what we have learned from the pandemic is we need drastic action surrounding areas affecting our most vulnerable populations so we can better address their inequities in health care, education, and economic and family well-being.”