Surveys, studies show child well-being needs work in Ohio

By: - June 16, 2023 4:50 am

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Studies show child care, kindergarten readiness and overall childhood well-being is suffering in Ohio.

A national study of states compared household data to determine how each state held up when it came to child development.

Ohio ranked 29th in overall child well-being, and 38th in high poverty areas, with 276,000 child living in those areas in a study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The state was worsening in comparison with others in categories such as a lack of secure employment in households with children, young children not in school, fourth-grade reading proficiency, eight-grade math proficiency, low birth-weight babies, and child and teen deaths per 100,000.

The state fared better with reductions in teen births per 1,000, and children in single-parent families.

The foundation’s report called America’s overall child care system “broken,” with safe, reliable child care “largely…inaccessible and unaffordable to too many Americans.”

“Shift workers, single parents, student parents and families of color are particularly affected by the failings of the child care system,” the report stated.

Affordability isn’t the only issue in accessing child care, but also distance to appropriate care and a lack of public transportation infrastructure, according to the study.

The foundation recommended federal, state and local government investment for child care and improved infrastructure for home-based child care.

The advocacy group Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio agreed that increased investment was need to bring back a positive environment for children.

“We must do more to invest in our children and families by investing in early childhood education, providing quality affordable healthcare and creating safe and supportive communities,” said Kelly Vyzral, senior health policy associate of CDF-Ohio, in a statement on the data.

Further study shows it’s not just fourth and eighth-graders suffering in readiness. State data from the 2022-2023 school year showed more kindergarteners ill-prepared to enter the classroom.

Education policy advocates at Groundwork Ohio were discouraged by the data showing 65% of all Ohioans of kindergarten-age are not ready for the grade, with even more from low-income families, 79%, aren’t ready to hit the classroom.

“The scores are a clarion call to state policymakers to restore the thoughtful and strategic investments made by Governor DeWine and the Ohio House of Representatives in the state’s FY 24-25 budget,” said Shannon Jones, president and CEO of Groundwork Ohio.

The Ohio Senate passed an operating budget on Thursday that left out more than $300 million in proposals to increase child care access for low-income families.

Will Petrik, project director for Policy Matters Ohio said $15 million per year to expand child care for Appalachian babies and toddlers and high-infant-mortality areas was cut in half by the Senate, something Petrik said will negatively effect the child care environment.

“Child care is a need for kids and for families,” Petrik said in a Twitter thread analyzing the Senate version of the budget. “Kids should get the care and early education they need to start kindergarten ready to learn.”

The budget also took away House provisions that would have included students who qualified for reduced-price lunches in free lunch programs, reducing a part of the student debt crisis in schools highlighted in budget testimony by school nutrition officials.

The Senate version of the budget, which passed without Democratic support, now gets consideration from the House to harmonize differences between the House and Senate-passed versions, before heading to the governor for final approval. The deadline to finalize the budget is June 30.



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Susan Tebben
Susan Tebben

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow (KY) Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.