CHARLESTON, West Virginia — West Virginia ranks near the bottom among states for the well-being of children, with more than a quarter of its kids living in poverty and more than a third in families whose parents lack secure employment, a report released Tuesday said.
West Virginia's child poverty rate increased from 23 percent in 2008 to 27 percent in 2013. The national child poverty rate rose from 18 percent to 22 percent during the same period, said the 2015 KIDS COUNT Data Book released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Margie Hale, executive director of West Virginia KIDS COUNT, said the state's 2013 child poverty rate was the highest in more than a decade.
"West Virginia has to do better for our children, and we can. We need to continue to increase our state minimum wage, and we must implement policies such as a state earned income tax credit, paid sick leave and increased childcare supports, which we know help lift kids and families out of poverty," Hale said in a news release.
The report said the percentage of West Virginia children in single-parent families increased from 33 percent to 37 percent, while the percentage of children in families without secure employment increased from 27 percent to 31 percent.
Overall, the report ranked West Virginia 43rd in the nation for children's wellbeing, based on indicators that include the child poverty rate, the percent of children living in single-parent families and teen birth rate. West Virginia dropped seven spots from its ranking of 37th in 2014.
Several indicators improved in the state. The teen birth rate fell from 47 per 1,000 births in 2008 to 40 in 2013 and the death rate for children and teens declined from 36 per 100,000 deaths to 34.
The percentage of high school dropouts was unchanged at 10 percent.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation recommended several measures to improve children's wellbeing, including ensuring access to high-quality early childhood education and giving parents multiple ways to obtain jobs that can support their families.
KIDS COUNT Data Book West Virginia profile: http://www.aecf.org/m/databook/2015KC_profile_WV.pdf