Studies show we have work to do

(Fort Wayne) News-Sentinel

Two recent studies shed light on important aspects of Hoosier life.

Indiana’s government is the best in the nation, according to a new U.S. News & World Report list of “Best States.” The state’s excellent credit rating, low pension fund liability, budget transparency, use of digital technology and overall fiscal stability were key to its success.

And new data from the Indiana Youth Institute Kids Count in Indiana Data show Indiana may be falling short when it comes to taking care of our children. Some of that research shows kids in our state are more likely to be victims of poverty and mistreatment compared with kids across the county.

Such reports are interesting, of course. It’s fascinating to see how we compare to other states. But they can also be instructive if we use them to better understand areas we need to work on.

U.S. News & World Report, for example, ranks us tops in government and high in opportunity (No. 4) but not so high in other areas. Our overall ranking was only 22, because we didn’t do so well in health care (41), education (27) crime and corrections (33), the economy (26) and infrastructure (20).

Those are all areas in which state government can and should have a big role, and obviously it has not been doing enough. If our government really is No. 1, that is not something to just celebrate. It should be something put to good use.

According to Kids Count, the state’s child abuse and neglect rate has risen steadily since 2011. The number of youth homicides continues to increase. More than half (52 per-cent) of the children removed by Indiana’s Department of Child Services in 2016 were removed due to a parental substance issue. One in five Hoosier kids still lives in poverty. One in 10 Indiana high-schoolers reported they have been forced to have sex — ranking the state sixth in nation. Suicide was the second-leading cause of death for Hoosiers ages 15 to 24 in 2014 and 2015.

Some of those problems require stronger government action. But individuals can make a difference in some. It is our legal and moral duty, for example, to report any suspicion of child abuse or neglect to the proper authorities. Indiana law makes that a responsibility of all citizens, not just those who work in child care fields.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to dr-editorial@greenfield