MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - VOICES For Alabama’s Children released its annual report Thursday and it’s a mixed bag of good news and some never-ending challenges.
The collected data represents 70 indicators on the well-being of Alabama’s children and it’s compiled into a report that shows a county-by-county look at the state’s children.
The key indicators are focused on four issue areas: health, education, safety and economic security. Alabama ranks no higher than 43rd overall in the nation in any of these areas, according to the data.
[READ MORE: Look at the full 2020 Alabama KidsCount DataBook]
First, the good news, or “a couple of good signs,” according to VOICES Executive Director Steve Woerner.
Alabama has turned the page when it comes to teenage pregnancy and infant mortality. Both are down. In fact, both categories continue to show a steady decline.
“Some of the efforts we’ve made over the years to address some of our major issues have seen results,” Woerner explained. “We are not where we need to be on education. We’re not where we need to be on access to mental health providers.”
Now the more challenging news.
Child poverty is up more than 25%. In 2000 it was slightly higher than 21%. The state’s total population only grew by 10%in the last 20 years, but during that period the child population actually decreased by 3%.
‘If you look at the Black community, it’s over 40%, as is the Hispanic [population], and so our children, who are these minority kids, that are going to make up the majority of our child population, are more likely to grow up in poverty,” said Woerner.
Shelby County leads the state in the overall health and well-being of our children. Greene County was ranked last.
It’s important to keep in mind the data collected was taken before the COVID-19 pandemic started.
“So this is the benchmark that we’re going to be comparing to for the next two to three years as we see the impact of COVID,” said Woerner.
The purpose of the annual report by VOICES? “[It] should set the priorities for our school board superintendents, for our non-profit executive directors that are writing grants, for our local elected leadership,” Woerner said.
The overall hope is what gets studied gets changed. The numbers are there for the taking.
VOICES For Alabama’s Children was started in 1992. Woerner says the data is collected through a partnership with state agencies.