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SD Ranks Near Middle for Child Well-Being

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Tuesday, June 22, 2021   

PIERRE, S.D. -- A mixed bag of news can be found for South Dakota in the latest report measuring child wellbeing in the U.S.

As families emerge from the pandemic, policy experts said there are actions state and federal leaders can take to keep kids on the right path.

The Kids Count data book, released annually by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, ranks South Dakota 20th overall for child well-being. The report details indicators such as economic stability, health and education.

Leading up to the crisis, the state saw improvement in reducing childhood poverty, with 15% of kids statewide under that category, down from a decade ago.

Xanna Burg, KIDS COUNT coordinator for South Dakota, said the numbers are still too high.

"Back in 2019, 31,000 South Dakota children lived in poverty," Burg recounted. "So for comparison, that's like every first- through third-grader in the state living on too little."

The report also included snippets of post-pandemic data. Survey data from last year showed 16% of South Dakota households with children were unsure they could pay their next rent or mortgage payment. Burg noted uncertainty was higher for families of color.

The Foundation called on federal lawmakers to make permanent the Child Tax Credit expansion under the American Rescue Plan, so families don't fall back into deep financial struggles.

South Dakota ranked 33rd in health, with 18,000 kids lacking health-care coverage.

Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs for the Foundation, said the health data should spur the state to take a step many other states have taken over the past decade.

"One of the recommendations is to pass Medicaid expansion in those states that have not passed it already," Boissiere stated. "And we've seen the states who have Medicaid expansion have a significant lower number of children and families who are uninsured."

The Affordable Care Act provides federal subsidies for a Medicaid expansion, and the American Rescue Plan offers added incentives.

Currently, a pair of petitions are being circulated to get the issue on the South Dakota ballot next year. The report also recommended the state invest more in early child education, with 61% of South Dakota eighth-graders not proficient in math.

Disclosure: Annie E. Casey Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Criminal Justice, Early Childhood Education, Education, Juvenile Justice, and Welfare Reform. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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