Wyoming has dropped several spots in its ranking in a national report on children’s well-being.
The 2014 Kids Count Index ranked Wyoming 19th in the country, down from 15th last year. The report weighs several factors. Wyoming earned a sixth place ranking for children’s economic well-being, but ranked 45th in health.
Some of the factors contributing to that low ranking include rates of teen alcohol abuse, the number of children without health insurance, and the number of babies born underweight.
Wyoming kids are better off economically than the average American child, according the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s latest Kids Count report, which tracks child well-being. The study found that only 14-percent of Wyoming children live in poverty, compared to 22-percent nationally.
But Marc Homer with the Wyoming Children’s Action Alliance says those numbers can be misleading.
Nationally and in Wyoming, more children are being cared for by Grandparents or other family members.
Children end up being cared for by relatives or close family friends because of military deployments, the death of a parent, substance abuse or mental illness, or child abuse and neglect. The Annie E. Casey Foundation says some four thousand Wyoming children are being cared for by a family member. Wyoming Kids Count Director Marc Homer says these can be excellent guardians for children, but he notes that state policies can be challenging for these caregivers.
New numbers show that Wyoming teenagers are smoking less. New Kids Count Data shows that in 1995 nearly 40-percent of high school students smoked a cigarette once in the last month. That number dropped to 22 percent in 2011. State Tobacco Prevention Coordinator Joe D’Eufemia said Wyoming increased its spending in preventive efforts in the late 1990’s, but he said two other actions may have had a greater impact.