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Delaware ranks 30th in the nation for child well-being

Annie E. Casey Foundation

Delaware ranks 30th in the nation for child well-being according to a new survey conducted by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The 2022 KIDS COUNT Data Book tracks and measures the wellbeing of the nation's children by pulling data from both national and local sources. In Delaware, KIDS COUNT partners with local data resources such as the Delaware Department of Education and the University of Delaware.

And this year, Delaware ranks lower than more than half of the states in the nation.

Well-being is tracked through 4 factors: economic well-being, family and community, education and health.

This year’s report includes pre-pandemic figures, as well as recent statistics, with a focus on sharing the latest information of its kind available.

A geographic analysis of health data this year shows that while Delaware has improved overall in terms of the number of children enrolled in health insurance, children residing in Kent County are less likely to be insured.

And Janice Barlow, Director of KIDS COUNT in Delaware, says knowing details like that will help improve child well-being across the state.

“It’s not just to collect and report on data, but it's to ensure that folks who are making decisions are using that data to have as a basis on their conversations to understand what’s going on with kids before they’re making decisions that are going to impact kids,” explained Barlow. “And ultimately to improve the well-being of children, to improve those outcomes.”

The number of First State kids experiencing negative mental health outcomes also contributed to Delaware’s low ranking.

Barlow says physical and mental health should be treated with equal importance, but that’s not usually the case.

“We have a focus this year on child mental health. And the idea that the pandemic really did a disservice to kids’ mental health, to everyone’s mental health, but especially kids,” said Barlow. “But we know that the pandemic exacerbated what was already going on.”

From 2016 to 2020, Delaware saw a nearly 33 percent increase in kids experiencing anxiety and depression - lifting the number to 23,000 kids or 13% statewide. Barlow says that increase reflects a national trend.

Barlow adds that while Delaware’s ranking isn’t ideal, the Data Book will allow decision-makers in the state to compare Delaware with higher-ranking states and see what they can learn about how to improve overall well-being.

Quinn Kirkpatrick was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware, and graduated from the University of Delaware. She joined Delaware Public Media in June 2021.