Monday, July 15, 2024

Report: Virginia Economic Instability Disrupts Kids’ Well-Being

The Annie E. Casey Kids Count Data Book finds 13% of Virginia kids live in poverty, a figure that has stagnated from previous years. However, it is lower than the national average of 16%. (Adobe Stock)

BALTIMORE — A new report finds Virginia’s economic instability disturbs kids’ well-being. The Annie E. Casey Kids Count Data Book ranks Virginia 16th nationwide for child well-being, down from 14th last year. The state did well in health and education, but some rankings hold kids back.

Rachael Deane, CEO of Voices for Virginia’s Children, noted the report shows 28% of kids live in homes with high housing costs. She said housing instability disrupts the foundation of economic security kids need to thrive.

“It’s a challenge to find affordable and adequate housing. Families are paying huge portions of their income for housing, which leaves little income left over to afford other necessities and resources for children,” she explained.

Deane feels state lawmakers are being proactive about improving kids’ education, although she thinks their efforts should focus on reducing the state’s high housing costs.

Affordable housing advocates want lawmakers to bring pandemic-era eviction protections in as a start. Eviction filings are creeping up to pre-pandemic levels, which peaked at almost 16,000 in 2019.

Other report data show 36% of Virginia kids have had an adverse childhood experience. Nationwide, 40% of kids experience one or more of these — such as divorce, a parent’s incarceration, or domestic violence.

Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said trauma can significantly impact children.

“And so, ensuring that these adverse childhood experiences are addressed, that they have the resources that they need within the school and within the community so that they can heal, is significantly important to the well-being of children,” she explained.

Most of Virginia is facing a youth mental-health professional shortage. But Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s Right Help Right Now plan could improve this. It calls for expanding mental-health programs in schools, growing tele-behavioral health operations in high schools and on college campuses, and creating more than 30 mobile crisis centers.

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