Forum Newsletter – 2017 Fall Edition – Dear Florida: We’re making progress, but we’ve got more work to do

A recent KIDS COUNT report ranked Florida 40th in the nation for overall child well-being.  The report, which represents what children need most in order to thrive, examined current trends to rank each state in regards to health, education, economic well-being, and family and community. Again, Florida ranks 40th out of 50 states. While collectively, Florida has made progress, findings from the KIDS COUNT report suggest we must do better for our kids.

According to the report, 93 percent of children in our state have health care insurance, up from 87 percent in 2010. This is a positive finding and suggests more families have access to appropriate medical care. In addition, Florida’s teen birth rate has steadily declined from 28 per 1,000 in 2010 to 21 per 1,000 in 2015. In contrast, more than 900,000 children live in poverty in Florida, and children who live in poverty confront more long term risk factors than their less economically disadvantaged families. Other indicators reveal the deep challenges faced by children and families in our state.  For example:

  • Over half a million children live in what is considered high-poverty areas.
  • 31 percent of Florida’s children live in families where their parents did not have full-time year-round work.
  • Forty percent of children live in households that spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, and according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, families who pay more than 30 percent of their income for may have difficulty affording necessities such as food, clothing, transportation, and medical care.
  • Nearly half a million children lived in families where the head of household lacked a high school diploma.

Although these statistics are sobering, Florida is moving the needle in the right direction. The Florida legislature voted for an increase ($25 million) in funding for the School Readiness program that provides financial child care assistance to more than 220,000 families. The program helps low‐income families afford high-quality child care and become economically self‐sufficient.

“Investing today in programs that help Florida’s children and families will contribute to a stable economy tomorrow,” said Phyllis Kalifeh, President and CEO of the Children’s Forum. When provided high-quality early care and education services, children are more likely to graduate from high school, attend college, maintain employment, and become productive, tax-paying citizens and less likely to commit crimes or repeat a grade. As true champions for children, we must all work together to engage our policy-makers and business leaders to invest in quality early learning programs now or address the negative consequences in the future.”