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The latest news from every corner of the state, including policy emerging from Missouri's capitol.

Annual Child Well-Being Report Ranks Missouri 27th Among States

Children catch fish in the lake. Boys playing near the water.
EvgeniyAndreev/EvgeniiAnd - stock.adobe.com
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While child poverty has improved in Missouri, still 23,000 kids live in families with incomes below the poverty line.

Children in Missouri are facing unprecedented levels of anxiety and depression - that's according to the 2022 Kids Count Data Book, released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The report finds mental health is a concern across the country, as kids felt the pressures from COVID-19. Nationally, nearly 12% of children had anxiety or depression, while in Missouri it was about 11%.

Missouri Kids Count Program Director Tracy Greever-Rice said it's crucial that kids have access to mental health care.

"In metropolitan areas, we have clusters of mental and behavioral health professionals," said Greever-Rice. "But in more rural areas access becomes more of a challenge and becomes impacted by non-clinical things like transportation."

She added that affordable health-coverage options, either through private insurance or Medicaid, also is key to ensuring access to care. About 6% of Missouri kids lack health insurance, according to the report.

Missouri showed improvement in all of the report's economic indicators, including a lower child poverty rate than the national average.

Leslie Boissiere - vice president for external affairs with the Casey Foundation - said the federal government has offered support, such as additional food assistance during the pandemic, but notes that help is likely to expire soon.

"It's incredibly important that decision-makers seize the opportunity and the lessons learned during the COVID-19 period," said Boissiere, "when more resources were provided to families. So that we can make sure that every child has their basic needs met and that the overall well-being of children increases."

Sore spots for Missouri in the Kids Count data include fourth-grade reading proficiency and eighth-grade math proficiency, as well as the percentage of low-birth weight babies, and youths who are overweight or obese.

Greever-Rice said these are areas where good short-term and long-term policies can make a big difference in kids' lives as they mature into adulthood.

"Attentiveness to these issues will make a big difference and prevention is not just good for individuals," said Greever-Rice, "but also more efficient and a less expensive a way to do public policy. "

Missouri ranks 27th overall for child well-being.

The Missouri News Service is a partner with KRCU Public Radio.

Mary'Schuermann' Kuhlman is an Ohio-based broadcast journalist who joined the Public News Service team in 2008. Previous experience includes radio news reporting and anchoring for WHIO-AM in Dayton and WTAM 1100 in Cleveland. She’s produced hundreds of stories across the country for PNS over the years, served as an assignment editor and helped launch the PNS Daily Newscast in 2012. Mary currently covers beats in Ohio and other Midwestern states, and co-anchors 2021Talks, a PNS newscast tracking politics and elections.