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.

Florida Legislative Session Opens this Week!

As you all know, the Florida Legislative session opens this week. For those of you visiting Tallahassee virtually or in person, I wanted to let you know what our policy priorities are this year and what resources we have to help you with your work to improve the well-being of Florida’s children and families.

With our fabulous Florida KIDS COUNT Advisory Council, we identified two areas to focus on for our publications to inform the conversation in Tallahassee in the coming 60 days. One area we will focus on is Affordable Housing. Did you know that in 2015, 40% of Florida’s children lived in households where more than 30% of monthly income was devoted to paying for rent or making mortgage payments.

With families relocating in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the need for affordable housing is likely to become even more acute.

Another area of focus is Juvenile Justice Reform, in particular focusing our investments in prevention and diversion, such as civil citations, as well as providing meaningful investments in community-based alternatives to incarceration that we know work.

In the next coming weeks, we will be focusing on these two areas in our publications and social media. We also have the state and county Child Well-Being Index as well as district profiles for each of the 120 House and 40 Senate districts. Please use these data to tell your state legislators that you know they can do better for the kids in their district. Let people know what we can do better for all of Florida’s kids and that we know what works:

  • ensure access to quality healthcare, early childhood education and housing,
  • support prevention programs beginning with prenatal mothers and extending through teen years in preventing contacts with and promoting diversion from juvenile justice, and,
  • support families to get better job skills and education.

Please visit our website frequently, like us on Facebook @FloridaKIDSCOUNT and follow us on Twitter @FlKidsCount. We will be in Tallahassee for Children’s Week, so visit us in person on Tuesday 1/23/2018. I hope to see you there.

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Reflections on Our 2017 Accomplishments

Hello KIDS COUNT Supporters!

With your help and support, we have had a very busy year!  It’s the time of year when we reflect on our year’s work.

We have been very busily spreading the word about KIDS COUNT and how data can be used to inform policy on child well-being.  It’s been great being out and about, seeing old friends and making new ones. We’ve presented or been exhibitors at 18 events across the state at events that included educating women legislators on policies that support children and their families, the state’s Faith – Based Advisory Council, the Task Force on the Involuntary Examination of Minors and the Hunger Summit in Sarasota. 

In addition to our products, we also continue to get the word out through our social media campaign and we had an unprecedented media coverage this year in print and on the radio.  We hosted our first ever live webinar for the media. Visit our Youtube channel to check it out, and also be sure to like and follow us on social media!

One of our major accomplishments for this year was the inaugural County Child-Well Being Index. Modelled on the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Child Well Being Index, Florida’s counties can now get a quick snapshot of the areas in which they are doing well and those which need attention.  We also published a legislative profile for all of Florida’s House and Senate districts for folks heading to see their legislators.  (We’ve updated this for the session beginning in January, so get your copies now for the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate). 

We also have convened an Advisory Council. This group has been invaluable in identifying our areas of focus for 2018 and we have begun a strategic planning process.  In the coming year we will be focusing on affordable housing, early childhood, criminal justice and immigration.

Looking ahead to 2018 we will continue pushing hard to make sure that our policy makers are making informed decisions about Florida’s children and families and that we keep a focus on continuing gains in getting children access to healthcare; preventing child abuse, juvenile justice and substance use; and, that Florida’s parents have the education and work opportunities to support their families.

We hope that you will join us in this and help share the word.  Wishing you all the best for 2018.


Norín Dollard

Director, Florida KIDS COUNT

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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 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


  • 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*


  • 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


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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!

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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2016 Florida KIDS COUNT County Data Book

08-24-17 Errata Notice

Florida’s growing population ranks us as the third fastest growing state in the U.S.  (U.S. Census, 2014).  In 2014, we had more than 19 million residents and we will likely have 2 million more by 2020.  One in five of us is a child under the age of 18. And we are diverse. Among children, 45.2% of our children are White Non-Hispanic, 21.6% are Black or African – American, and 29.8% are Hispanic.
Where children are concerned, we are already a majority ‘minority’ state. Why does this matter?  Because we need the full contributions of all of our future citizens and they need the opportunity and support to grow physically, emotionally, educationally and economically. 

  • We need them to grow up to be to be an educated, prepared workforce.
  • We need them to grow up to be taxpayers who support our schools, roadways, and Florida’s breathtaking natural beauty.
  • We need them to grow up to share their amazing cultural richness across our state.
  • We need them to grow up to be good neighbors living in strong, vibrant communities. 

But to do that, we need to help them grow and we need to help their families be the secure foundation children can count on.  But how?
As part of our efforts, consistent with the national KIDS COUNT organization, Florida KIDS COUNT has just completed a county-by-county profile data-book which tells us where we need to work harder at the state level and in each of our counties. The data-book provides more information on how we can improve poverty levels, education and health outcomes while reducing negative risk factors. We hope state legislators, public officials and child advocates will use this reliable data to advance sound policies that benefit children and families.

View County Data Book Now

If you would like to purchase hard copies, please contact Pro-Copy printing at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Florida's Foster-care Population Way Above the National Average

Florida's foster-care population increased by 24 percent between 2013 and 2015 (AP), way above the national average of 7%. While it is encouraging to know that safety is a priority, it is still heartbreaking that any child must be removed from their home and family, adding to whatever trauma, confusion and fear they have already experienced.
A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation explores how public agencies can get more people to step forward as foster parents and to encourage the extraordinary individuals who have already answered the call to continue their commitment to care. The report states that with the appropriate training and the right tools, foster parenting can be a deeply rewarding experience that benefits children, supports birth parents and helps child welfare agencies fulfill their mission to keep children safe and help them thrive in families.
The report also profiles a “sister” program (we are in the same department at USF) - The Center for Child Welfare, which works in collaboration with the Florida Department of Children and Families to provide timely, accurate and useful information to child welfare professionals and others. One of their projects, the Quality Parenting Initiative, is one of Florida's approaches to strengthening foster care. It helps agencies and foster parents communicate what each expects of the other and build consensus on what makes for quality caregiving. QPI provides practical, web-based tools and resources to build foster parent knowledge and skills. The major successes of the project have been in systems change and improved relationships.
View the Annie E. Casey Report, A Movement to Transform Foster Parenting.
Visit QPI Florida.
Visit Florida’s Center for Child Welfare.

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Three thousand thirty-five (3,035) Floridian lives lost to suicide in 2014

Three thousand thirty-five (3,035) people: this could be the number of students in a high school or the year-round population of Provincetown, Massachusetts. However, this is the number of Floridian lives lost to suicide in 2014.

While death by suicide is statistically a rare event, seriously considering suicide or attempting suicide occurs with greater frequency among youth. In Florida, 13.8% of high school aged youth reported that he or she had seriously considered suicide , 11.1% had made a suicide plan , and 5,508 (2.5%) were medically treated for a suicide attempt.

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What Would It Take Florida?

The 2016 Data Book just came out and, sadly, our great state is still not faring so well in the rankings. On overall child well-being we ranked 40th in the nation. Florida KIDS COUNT has been sharing the new data on our blog and website, through Twitter and Facebook, and through a bunch of interviews that appeared in print, the web and the radio all over the state. The data reinforces what everyone knows – we need to focus on improving things for our most vulnerable citizens. But instead of lamenting our ranking of 40th for too long, we decided to ask 'What Would It Take Florida?' to see what it would take to attain the number #1 ranking in the nation for each child well-being domain included in the 2016 Data Book. We decided to turn our bad news into something actionable, and we do so with a special shout out to our colleagues in Alabama and Delaware who thought up this great idea.

If you’ve been following our blog, you know that over the next few months we will be looking at each domain of the KIDS COUNT Florida data profile and each of the indicators that comprise the domain in greater detail. We will look at each indicator nationally, statewide, and then, for each domain and indicator, we ask what would it take for Florida to be the best state in the nation for children and families? Follow along on Twitter at #WWITFL.

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Teamwork for Florida’s Hispanic Children and Families!

Hispanic and Latino children are disproportionately affected by poverty relative to white children. This has serious implications for their welfare, as well as for our state’s economic well-being in the long run. Because of the urgency of this issue, Florida KIDS COUNT was asked by The Children’s Campaign to partner with them and the Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication at Florida State University to develop a resource as Florida’s election cycle hits high gear. We were very excited to be invited to develop an English and Spanish language resource for all candidates, but especially those with Hispanic and Latino families in their constituencies.

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Florida Ranks 40th in 2016 KIDS COUNT Data Book

Each year around this time, the Annie E. Casey Foundation releases its KIDS COUNT Data Book 2016 – State Trends in Child Well-being. This year marks the 27th time that the Foundation has produced state profiles that allow users to directly compare all of the states on sixteen indicators of child well-being and one overall ranking of child well-being. Data is also available for Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, but they are not directly compared to the states.

So how do these state profiles work exactly? Leaving the mathematical details to your reading pleasure (download the report here), the Overall State Ranking is derived from sixteen indicators. The 16 indicators are organized into the following four categories:

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Florida's High School Graduation Rates

By Norín Dollard, Florida KIDS COUNT Director

Source: Florida Department of Education Florida’s High School Cohort Graduation Rate December 2014

It’s that exciting time of the year, graduation season! This year I have a bumper crop of four in my circle of family and friends. My friend’s son graduated from kindergarten. One of my elementary school principal friends describes the happy bedlam and quips, "don’t you just wish you could bottle their joy at being in school, so when you are feeling a little down, you could just sip it and you would be refreshed?" It’s just that much fun. Two of my nieces are graduating from high school and again you feel their excitement for what’s to come as they enter adulthood in their sober black gowns, perfectly coiffed, made up and carefully poised atop those high heels! Finally, a young friend of mine just graduated from college and is headed to medical school. She is a little more subdued about her accomplishment but still full of anticipation as well as pride that all of her hard work has paid off.

All around Florida, proud parents, family members and friends gather to celebrate graduations. The Florida Department of Education reports that graduation rates have risen 18% since 2003 (see the below infographic) which is great news for Florida. We shouldn’t rest on our laurels just yet though, as 25% of our students don’t graduate on time, although we are improving. These next few months we at Florida KIDS COUNT will be focusing on the needs of children of color and issues of gender. So starting with this blog, let’s look at how children of color are doing in the Sunshine State.

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The Burden of Incarceration on Florida Families

New report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation reveals that Florida has the third largest number of children who have experienced parental incarceration

According to a new report just released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 312,000 of Florida’s children have experienced the separation of a parent due to incarceration. In A Shared Sentence: The Devastating Toll of Parental Incarceration on Kids, Families and Communities, the Casey Foundation offers commonsense steps officials can take to address the increased poverty and stress that children of incarcerated parents experience – which research shows can have as much impact on their well-being as abuse or domestic violence.

In Florida, 34.4% of its 99,485 inmates reported having 64,848 minor children as of December 2015. Male inmates constituted 89.0% of the inmates who reported having minor children. Only 15.8% of inmates reported that their children lived in the same county or an adjacent county, limiting the opportunities for in-person visits. 

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Tweet for #FLKids

Partner with us in tweeting for Florida's children!

In order to better serve you with data-based resources that you can use to make positive change for Florida's kids and their families we've jumped on the social media band-wagon! We've been pleased to see so many other advocates for children and families on social media and we'd like to connect. Excellent work to support children and families is happening across the state, and social media is a wonderful platform for all of us to highlight that work together. In addition, much more needs to be done to improve the well-being of children and social media can be a powerful tool to further that work. 

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Children’s Week 2/5/16

The Florida KIDS COUNT team has recently returned from our very first visit to Children’s Week in Tallahassee. This annual celebration of Florida’s children draws nearly 5,000 children, parents, advocates, teachers, and others to the Florida Capitol to deliver the message that every child in Florida must be healthy, ready to learn, and able to achieve their full potential. We were very inspired by the great energy that was marshalled in support of our state’s youngest citizens. There were so many great resources represented that deserve our lawmakers’ attention, including Florida KIDS COUNT. Our goal is to provide information so that people can make good decisions about Florida’s children and hopefully our presence there reminded folks about how we can support them in getting the word out about their particular resource or service. Below are some great resources related to the critical issues that were shared during Children’s Week.

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