WASHINGTON _ For raising children, Kansas is among the top 10 best spots in the nation.
That’s the conclusion of the Children’s Rights Council. It released its annual survey of the states on Tuesday. Kansas ranked No. 8, up from 14th place last year.
“We do this to foster competition between the states,” said Ellen Sanders, who edited this year’s study for the council.
Kansas officials welcomed the top-10 ranking and credited the state’s commitment to its children.
“The people are kid-friendly,” said Mike Matson, spokesman for Gov. Bill Graves.
Also in the top ten were Maine, which was ranked No. 1; Massachusetts, No. 2; Connecticut, No. 3; Vermont, No. 4; New Hampshire, No. 5; North Dakota, No. 6; Maryland, No. 7; Wisconsin, No. 9; and Iowa, No. 10. The lowest ranking went to Washington, D.C. The states were ranked by percentage referred for alleged abuse and neglect of children, children not immunized by age 2, high school dropout rate, children in poverty, child death rate, infant mortality rate, pregnant women not receiving prenatal care in the first trimester, juvenile arrests, divorce rate, and teen mothers.
The report gave these statistics on Kansas:
- Kansas has the sixth-lowest high school dropout rate, at 6 percent of teens aged 16-19.
- It has a low infant mortality rate, at .0083 deaths per thousand live births.
- It has one of the lowest teen birth rates at 28 births per thousand mothers ages 15-17.
Kansas officials say the statistics show that the state’s programs have helped make life better for children and parents, and is proof of the state’s community atmosphere.
“This well-deserved ranking,” Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said in a statement, “reflects Kansas’ top-notch public education system, our efforts to provide health care and child care to all Kansas children, out success in addressing juvenile crime, and a high quality of life.”
In a telephone interview, Dodie Wellshear Johnson, a spokeswoman for Kansas Action for Children, a child advocacy group in Topeka, praised the state for tackling the problem of teen pregnancy. The YWCA has a teen speakers bureau in which teen mothers talk to their peers about the trials of raising kids early.
“Communities can pull together and will pull together and take a lot of pride in being a good place to raise kids,” Johnson said.
Matson of the governor’s office also cited the state’s generally rural character as an asset. And many parents support extracurricular activities, he added.
But some say the state could still do better. Data from the Children’s Defense Fund in Washington show that in Kansas every 17 minutes a child was reported abused or neglected, every four hours a baby was born at low birth weight, and every seven days a child or youth was killed by a gun.
Many urge state officials to focus on preventive education for problems such as juvenile crime, to improve the state’s foster care system and to keep up the good work.
“We really for the first time have a chance to get ahead of the curve,” said Bruce Lindhos, director of Children’s Alliance, an association of private not-for-profit child welfare agencies in Topeka.
For more information on the Children’s Rights Council, visit http://www.vix.com/crc/.