Child well-being improves in Louisiana

Louisiana improved its national ranking on child well-being, rising to No. 46 out of 50, according to the annual report released Monday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a private charitable organization.

“Louisiana is at its best ranking; we improved one spot since last year,” said Teresa Falgoust, a coordinator for Agenda for Children, a New Orleans organization that tracks law and policies involving children.

The annual Kids Count report compiles government statistics from various quality-of-life indicators, such as health care, death rates, the makeup of families, family economics and education, then tabulates a ranking that shows how well children are faring in each state.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation, based in Baltimore, is funded by the heirs to the UPS fortune and focuses on children’s issues.

Louisiana improved in 11 out of 16 indicators, including the number of children attending preschool, the number of students graduating high school on time, low-birthweight babies and children with health insurance coverage.

State Department of Children and Family Services Secretary Suzy Sonnier responded to a request for an interview with a prepared statement. “This year marks the second straight year that Louisiana has moved up in the overall rankings of the Annie E. Casey Kids Count report, from 49th in 2011 to 46th today,” Sonnier stated.

The percentage of fourth-graders scoring below proficient in reading improved by 4 percent between 2005 and 2011, according to the Kids Count.

But all four measures related to children’s economic well-being got worse since 2005 in Louisiana, according to the report.

The number of children living in poverty — 317,000 or 29 percent of all Louisiana children — rose, ranking the state higher than 47 others.

More than one third of the state’s children, about 396,000 or 35 percent, have parents who did not have a full-time job throughout the year of 2011. That is 9 percent higher than 2008, the report showed.

“If we want to see greater improvements we really should work on these indicators,” Falgoust said.

“The federal children-in-poverty measure is a fairly low standard of economic needs. A lot of researchers and experts say that a family needs to make about twice the federal poverty level to make ends meet.”

Dr. Anthony Recasner, the chief executive officer of Agenda for Children, said in a prepared statement: “The Kids Count Data Book shows that while many of the investments we’ve made in children are paying off, we still have a long way to go if we want Louisiana’s children to have the same opportunities as children in the best-ranked states.”