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California Losing Ground on National Indicators of Children's Well-being

Jun 27, 2006

OAKLAND, CA—Children’s well-being in California is no longer improving as steadily as it did in the late 1990s, according to a new report released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

This year’s KIDS COUNT Data Book shows that, although California is improving in six of 10 indicators, such as infant mortality rate and percent of children living in poverty, it is worsening in others. Since 2000, the state’s percentage of low birthweight babies, teen death rate and percentage of children living in families where parents do not have year-round, full-time employment have increased.

Each year, the Casey Foundation’s Data Book reports state-by-state on the needs and conditions of America’s children and families, as well as on statistical trends. This year’s report strongly supports California’s need to focus on K-12 education reform. It presents such discouraging data as 40 percent of California’s 8th graders scored below basic reading level and 43 percent scored below basic math level in 2005. Among 4th graders, half scored below basic reading level and 29 percent scored below basic math level. Compared to the national average on those tests, California students are trailing behind.

“Our children deserve the best, but this shows us how we are failing our children,” said Ted Lempert, president of Children Now, which releases the report in California. “We need to increase our investment and more efficiently allocate public resources in our education system—from early childhood development programs to high school classrooms. Every child deserves a quality education.”

The 17th annual Data Book also looks at the critical role early childhood development plays in preparing millions of American children for success in school and life, and outlines ways to support family-based child care. The Casey Foundation defines family-based care, also referred to as friend, family and neighbor care, as a form of child care offered in a family-based setting outside of the child’s own home, by regulated or unregulated providers. Throughout the nation, about 6.5 million children under age 6 spend all or part of their time in family-based child care. For these children, family, friends and neighbors shape a significant part of their childhood experience. In California, 840,000 children under age 6 (27%) are in family-based care.

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