Providing tools to assess the needs of Florida's children and their families.

Providing tools to assess the needs of Florida's children and their families.

Counting For Kids Blog

Welcome to the Florida KIDS COUNT Counting for Kids blog.

2017 Race for Results Policy Report

This past summer, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released its 2017 Databook.  In it, for the second year in a row, Florida ranked 40th among the 50 states in children wellbeing.  That report highlighted the fact that we have a great deal of work to do to support Florida’s children, especially in healthcare and in improving the economic wellbeing of our children.  But this blog is not really about that.  What the Databook 2017 was not able to address is that there are large and growing disparities between Florida’s white children and children of color, who make up more than half of the children and adolescents under the age of 18 (US Census, 2015.) The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2017 Race for Results report shows that persistent challenges in opportunities for success and well-being after the recession hinder children of color and kids living in immigrant families, especially African-American, Latino and American Indian kids.

Casey has developed an index from 12 indicators ranging from babies born at normal birthweights, to educational achievement in reading and math, to children living above 200% of poverty. This index ranges from ‘0’ to ‘1000’, with higher scores being better than lower scores.  The findings are disturbing.

Florida ranks 28th for African American children with a score of 364, comparable to the national score of 369 but which is well below the average score of 500. Hispanic children in Florida rank better, at #9 nationwide, but the actual score of 524 is only marginally better than average.  Asian children and white children fared about the same as the national average.  One thing we can celebrate is that American Indian children did better than their peers nationwide. 

Other reports confirm these disturbing figures.  The recently issued report on patterns of resegregation in Florida’s schools indicate that Black and Hispanic children are increasingly resegregated not only by race but by poverty and that the children in these resegregated schools do not do as well academically as their white peers  (LeRoy Collins Institute, 2017).  Further, these schools are concentrated in our urban centers.

So what do we do? We make sure all of Florida’s children and families have access to opportunity to do better. We support policies that ensure that parents have meaningful employment that enables them to support their families.  We ensure that we are providing quality educational experiences from preschool on up so that children develop properly. We ensure that all schools are adequately resourced with experienced, well qualified teachers.

It is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do.  Families who are able to have meaningful work are able to invest in their children.  Strong families are attractive to employers who need skilled, educated employees to be successful.  Strong healthy children are our state’s best hope.

Race for Results Materials & Resources

2017 Race for Results Policy Report
Florida Press Release
National Press Release (English)
National Press Release (Spanish)
Florida Media summary on this topic

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Florida Child Well-Being Index

2017 Florida Child Well-being IndexFlorida County Child Well-being Index helps answer where counties can focus
to make life better for our states' children and families

Click to view the 2017 Florida County Index

Everyone is familiar with the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual ranking of states, right?  This index uses 16 indicators of child well-being categorized into four categories: 

  1. Economic Well-Being
  2. Education
  3. Health, and
  4. Family and Community

Each year publicly available data are used to compare the 50 states and provide relative rankings each summer.  (To jog your memory, read our blog below on the 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book or visit http://www.aecf.org/resources/2017-kids-count-data-book/national-and-state-data-profiles/ to see Florida’s profile).

This is the most popular and well known ranking we know of.  People love it because it is easy to understand and it uses concepts that resonate with our ideas of child well-being, like graduation rates and parental employment. It also keeps us asking questions like,  ‘What do we need to do to make life better for Florida’s children and families?’ and 'Which county ranks #1? How are they doing it'?

So we asked ourselves, why can’t we do that with Florida’s counties?  We consulted with KIDS COUNT colleagues in other states who have tried this.  Then we had a few issues to tackle, like figuring out a fair way to compare counties as diverse as Florida’s in terms of demographics, in its mix of rural, suburban and urban, and in population sizes. So we converted them to ratios and chose indicators where ‘lower is better’ for all 16. (Check out our YouTube channel for a detailed discussion of methodology and measures.)

Once we figured out a way to do that mathematically, we had to tackle two more issues:

  1. We had to find indicators that were the same as or similar to Casey’s and available at the county level (not always easy), and,
  2. We had to use the same measure at two time points so we can show trends over five years (we were mostly successful).

We were able to use many of the same indicators the Casey index relies on to produce the state index, but put our Florida fingerprint on it by substituting some indicators from state data sources. In the end, we wound up using the following indicators in each of the four categories. The asterisk shows which indicators differ from those included in the Annie E. Casey index because either there was more current data available at the state level or because the indicator was not available at the county level.

Economic Well-Being

  • Children Under 18 Who Live in Poverty
  • County Unemployment Rate*
  • High Housing Cost Burden
  • Teens Not in School and Not Working

Education

  • Students Not Ready for Kindergarten*
  • Fourth graders Not Proficient in Reading*
  • Eighth Graders Not Proficient in Math*
  • Students Not Graduating from High School on Time*

Health

  • Low Birthweight Babies*
  • Children without Health Insurance
  • Overweight and Obese Students*
  • Teens who used Alcohol or Drugs in the Prior 30 days*

 Family and Community

  • Children in Single Parent Families
  • Children Living in High Poverty Areas
  • Children with Verified Child Maltreatment*
  • Youth with Juvenile Justice Contacts*

* These indicators are unique to the Florida version of the Index and are not used in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s state rankings.

Over the next few weeks, we are going to share the Florida Child Well-Being Index online and we will talk about counties and how their children are faring. I hope you will keep an eye out for our Facebook and Twitter posts. We ask that you also join the conversation on Twitter at #WWITFL where we again ask you to consider ‘What Would It Take Florida?’ for each county to rank #1.  

If we give a shout out about the #FLKids in your county, please answer back and tell us what is making a difference for your county and what we can learn from you.

Most importantly, in the spirit that the Annie E. Casey Foundation intended, use these data to tell your state legislator**, your school board and your county or city commission or mayor how the children are doing. Let people know what we can do better for all of Florida’s kids and we know what works:

– support families to get better job skills and education,

– ensure access to quality healthcare and early childhood education

– support prevention programs beginning with prenatal mothers

Additional Resources

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2017 KIDS COUNT® Data Book

It is that time of the year again!  Today, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released its 2017 KIDS COUNT® Data Book – State Trends in Child Well-being. Guess what? Our ranking of 40th out of the 50 states did not change. At all.  Does that mean we didn’t accomplish anything this past year? No, but it means we still have much to do.

So, how did we do this year?

  • In the economic well-being domain, we ranked 45th, meaning we lost a bit of ground over the last year.  One of the drivers of this ranking is the number of children living in poverty.  In 2015, 23% of children or 932,000 children lived in poverty. This percentage hasn’t changed since 2010.  These children are living in poverty despite the fact that significantly more of their parents had secure employment and fewer were living in households where housing costs exceeded 30% of their family’s income.
  • In education, we had more young children in preschool than the national average (53%) and more fourth graders proficient in reading than in 2010.
  • In the health domain, we did improve our ranking from 47th to 44th.  Hooray! We had fewer low birthweight babies born, fewer teens who abused drugs or alcohol and we had significantly fewer uninsured children than we did in 2010.  This is an incredible improvement.
  • In the family and community domain, we held on to our ranking of 35th nationwide. As was true of economic well-being, there is good news, as fewer children are living in families where the head of household lacked a high school diploma, but there were significantly more children were living in impoverished neighborhoods in 2015 than was true in 2010.

So what do we do next year?

We must continue to fight child poverty.  We know that poverty is associated with slower brain development in young children, and long term effects including higher rates of teen pregnancy and school drop outs, among other poor outcomes. We also know that helping children out of poverty means we have to  help their parents earn a living wage, improve their educational status and ensure that they have access to healthcare and quality early childhood educational experiences for their children. We know that investing in children and families in the short run has an incredible return on investment to our communities over the long term.

So what do we do now?

Let’s not allow any backsliding on any indicator.  We are making gains in insuring kids and we need to keep increasing these numbers. How about reading? To increase reading proficiency among our third graders, we need to start well before those children enter kindergarten.  To do so, we need to ensure our youngest children get quality early childhood experiences. We need to engage their families to be the first teachers and ensure those families can provide proper nutrition to help their physical and emotional development.  Read more about policy options that address child wellbeing at the links below. In addition, over the next month we will highlight findings from the report on Facebook and Twitter.  In July, we will launch an index for Florida’s counties that mirrors Casey’s state rankings, so that you can talk with your state and local policy makers about what we can do to make life better for Florida’s children. So meet me back here at www.floridakidscount.org.

 

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Advisory Council

We are really excited to have our first Advisory Council Members!!! We have convened this group to not only help shape the future of Florida KIDS COUNT, but to help us better inform those making decisions that affect all #FLkids. Thank you for agreeing to help us share our vision, advise us on issues affecting Florida’s children and families, and create meaningful connections. We look forward to this partnership and increasing Florida KIDS COUNT’s visibility as Florida's "go to" for data resources!

Photograph:
Standing- Dennis Campa (AECF), Norín Dollard, Tanya Hollins, Robert Buesing.
Seated- Joseph Pennisi, Vicki Adelson, Chloe Coney, Wit Ostrenko, Zackary Gibson.
Not in photo- Mario Hernandez, Stacy Carlson, Cindy Arenberg Seltzer, Sandy Murman, Richard Briscoe.

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Children’s Week at the Florida Capital

Florida KIDS COUNT joined thousands of Florida’s families, students, teachers and advocates at the Florida Capitol on Mar. 26-31 for a celebration of our greatest gifts – our children! Now in its 22nd year, Children’s Week shines a spotlight on the important issues facing lawmakers this legislative session and advocates for children’s health, education and well-being.

FKC was among the 100 partners and exhibitors hosting information and activity booths this year. In addition, we shared some of the newest data with Florida legislators, including data on the families, economy, health, and education in each of their districts.

Florida House & Senate Data

To view information on children in your district related to families, economy and health, and education, visit:

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