Did you see this recent headline in the Anchorage Daily News? “Alaska ranks 45thin the nation for children’s well-being, report says.” 45th in the nation? We must do better!
As Alaskans, we like to think of ourselves as exemplifying that “pioneer spirit” of independence and at the same time recognizing that our climate and geography compel us to interdependence. We need to call on both our independence and interdependence to move Alaska from a dismal 45th in the nation to a much better score.
First we need to take a close look at what the data are telling us. For example, we have the lowest rate of low birth-weight babies in the nation, which is very good – national rate of 8.3% vs Alaska rate of 6.2%. We have improved in decreasing the number of teen births per 1,000 – from 38 in 2010 to 22 in 2017, close to the national number of 19 per 1,000.
At the same time, the rate of Alaska child and teen deaths is 52 per 100,000 – twice the national rate. And Alaska has the highest percentage of teens who abuse alcohol or drugs.
The percentage of 3- and 4-year-olds not in school has remained stagnant at 64% since 2011, and there’s been little change in the number of fourth-graders not proficient in reading, not at 72%.
Granted, this is just a snapshot, with data points selected by Kids Count. But it does tell us we have work to do as a state to ensure our children are nurtured and cared for so they grow up to be happy, healthy, and productive citizens.
Here at Best Beginnings, we’re working hard to make that happen. We provide parents of young children with a variety of information and resources, from a weekly emailed newsletter with tips and ideas about early literacy and language development, to support for Imagination Library across the state, to www.BestBeginningsAlaska.org, to activity guides in English, Spanish, and Yup’k – and more. Programs that we know are helping children get ready to read, and bringing families closer together every day.
We all have a part to play in improving the Kids Count statistics. Contact us for information on how you can help.
Go here for the full Kids Count report as well as Alaska-specific reports on the following:
Winter 2019 KIDS COUNT – Alaska Family and Community
Fall 2018 KIDS COUNT – Alaska Health
Spring 2018 KIDS COUNT – Alaska Education
Winter 2018 KIDS COUNT – Alaska Economic Well-Being
** The data referenced in this blog comes from the annual Kids Count report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, through partnership with the Alaska Children’s Trust.