In working towards Henrico CASA’s vision that all children in Henrico County live in safe and stable homes, we are continually exploring and evaluating the concept of a child’s well-being. Well-being is defined as the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy. That seems a bit subjective. So how do we measure it?
The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual Kids Count report helps us assess and quantify wellbeing among children. How are Virginia’s youth doing? They rank 13th in the country in terms of overall well-being. This holistic measure factors in data from four main categories: economic well-being, education, health, and family/community. Highlights from the study, specific to Virginia, are below:
Last year in Virginia, 13% of children lived with poverty and 22% lived with parents who lacked secure employment. Poverty level and financial stability can highlight potential risk factors for families and their children. Without economic security, children are more likely to experience disruptions to housing, education, and relationships. They are also less likely to have access to important resources.
Education continues to be a strong indicator for future success. Studies show that learning begins long before most kids are even enrolled in school. Preschool and elementary age skill-building is vital to child development. While it is disheartening to see that in Virginia, 51% of 3-4-year-olds are not in school and 62% of 4th graders are not proficient in reading, it is encouraging to see improvement in the percentage of teens graduating from high school on time.
Recent years have brought improvements in access to healthcare insurance. However, the overall physical and mental health of children and teens continued to be greatly impacted by access to preventive care, community issues, and consistent adult supervision. Since obesity is a precursor for many long-term health conditions, it is important to note that 31% of Virginia children and teens are overweight or obese.
Family and Community
A nurturing family and supportive community often lead to higher achievement. The average number of teen births is used as a measure for family and community well-being because it can point to long-term challenges for both the teen mother and baby. The teen birth rate reported last year (14 per 1,000) shows significant improvement over the past ten years.
These are general statistics indicating trends among all children in Virginia. Please note that they do not highlight racial inequities that are prevalent across the above categories. To delve in a bit more, you could also explore Voices for Virginia’s Children’s recent data snapshot.
The good news? These most recent data points in the Kids Count report show that the wellbeing of children and teens has improved in Virginia. Multiple key measures in economic well-being, education, and family and community are better than reported in past years. Let’s keep this positive trend going in 2022!