Ohio’s children have been hit hard by the disaster.
Their rates of depression and/or anxiety increased 42% from 2016 to 2020, according to the KIDS COUNT data book released Monday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Chronic absenteeism “skyrocketed” to 45% from 2019 to 2021. And the numbers for children of color and Appalachia were even worse than their white counterparts.
Ohio now ranks 31st overall – down from 27th in 2019 – for children’s well-being. The new figures rank the region at the bottom of all categories, including health, education and economic well-being.
These indicators, according to the foundation, capture “what children need most to thrive,” and the organization has been evaluating governments based on these factors since 1990.
The report, and its companion data from the Ohio Children’s Defense Fund, are full of numbers, figures and charts broken down by county, state and state.
Here are five important points:
Ohio children face a mental health pandemic
About 1 in 8 Ohio children experienced symptoms of anxiety and/or depression in 2020. To see also : Mental Health. That’s a 42% increase from 2016, and slightly higher than the national average of 1 in 9.
A rise in childhood reports of mental health concerns led the US surgeon general to label the issue of youth a “mental health crisis” earlier this year.
But Kim Eckhart, director of research for the Ohio Children’s Defense Fund, said there are some takeaways from the numbers.
“These are children who have been diagnosed with the disease or reported these conditions to a provider,” Eckhart said. “People are starting to recognize the signs and seek help.”
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She thinks Ohio school districts can help by adding mental health and counseling services to their buildings.
“We have to make it easy for them to seek help,” Eckhart said. “You don’t have to go through a serious medical condition to get help.”
That’s what Gov. Mike DeWine also spoke.
He told reporters earlier this month that he plans to ask the Legislature for more “wellness dollars” in his next budget. State lawmakers put about $1 billion of it into the 2019-2021 budget, but folded the school funding formula into the 2022-2023 budget.
“We want this to be a wake-up call for kids who are experiencing these symptoms,” Eckhardt said.
Teen pregnancy in Ohio
The number of 15- to 17-year-olds giving birth in Ohio decreased slightly from 2020 to 2021, according to KIDS COUNT data.
The rate of teenage mothers per 1,000 children went from 6.8 to 6.2, which translates to about 1,500 births in 2021. On the same subject : Cape Cod students win business and business ideas competitions. Most of those babies, however, were born to young children of color.
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The teenage pregnancy rate for Black girls is three times higher than the rate for white teenagers.
It is worth noting that 85% of Black students fall into the economically disadvantaged category and 62% receive federal food benefits. For white children, those percentages are 37% and 18%, respectively.
Differences in reading and graduation
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“The racial and ethnic disparities are truly shocking,” Children’s Defense Fund spokeswoman Alison Paxson said.
90 percent of white students graduate from high school, but that number drops to 84% of students with two or more, 79% of Hispanic students and 77% of black students.
Both Paxson and Eckhardt say you can see this disparity starting to show up in elementary school children’s reading scores.
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Overall, Ohio hasn’t moved the needle on fourth-grade reading proficiency over the past decade, according to KIDS COUNT data.
Nearly two-thirds of Ohio fourth graders were not proficient in reading in 2009 and that percentage remained at 64% in 2019.
Reading sets the foundation for all learning, says Morgan Hyatt, vice president of information policy at the Children’s Defense Fund. “That’s a number that we really have to focus on and put a lot of energy and attention into.”
Appalachia continues to lag behind
The Children’s Defense Fund broke down Ohio’s numbers into four different regions: suburban, urban, rural and Appalachian.
And those in the Appalachian region continue to lag behind the rest of the state on several critical indicators such as poverty, graduation rates and the number of children in foster care.
Adams County has 44 children per 1,000 in the foster care system while Delaware County has one.
Nine percent of suburban children live in poverty, according to the data, while nearly 20% struggle to make ends meet in Appalachia. Unemployment rates are high, median incomes are low, and many children rely on government benefits such as Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
One in four K-12 students missed at least 10% of the 2020-2021 school year, according to the data. One in 10 missed more than 20%.
And the numbers were even worse for the region’s most vulnerable children,
37 percent of low-income students, 33% of students with disabilities and 47% of Black students were chronically absent last year.
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Paxon and Eckhardt call these numbers “bellwether statistics” or “canaries in the coal mine” because they are a clear indicator of other issues in a child’s life.
Anything from physical health to a lack of safe places to sleep at night or supplies or reliable transportation can keep kids from attending classes. They believe programs such as mobile dental clinics, dryers in schools and phone trees for students who miss the bus can help.
And they would like the legislature to prioritize this type of assistance going forward.
“Ohio has an opportunity to be one of the leading states,” Eckhardt said. “We have a healthy economy and great talent. There is no reason for us to be inferior to other governments.”
Anna Staver is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, serving the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other news organizations across Ohio.