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Originally published Monday, June 24, 2013 at 12:04 AM

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Report: Economic well-being of kids in Washington still down

Overall well-being for children of color still lags far behind their peers, according to the Kids Count Data Book.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Although the economic well-being of Washington’s kids has declined with the recession, health and education indexes have largely improved, according to the annual Kids Count Data Book, released Monday.

Overall well-being for kids of color, however, still lags far behind their peers. Similar trends hold on the national level.

“The report tells us the impact of the Great Recession is still being felt by kids,” says Paola Maranan, executive director of the Children’s Alliance. “There is so much critical development that happens for children. There are windows of opportunity around childhood development.”

Kids Count is funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and produced by the Children’s Alliance in partnership with the Washington State Budget & Policy Center. The Annie E. Casey Foundation is a private charitable organization dedicated to helping disadvantaged children in the United States. It was established in 1948 by Jim Casey, one of the founders of United Parcel Service (UPS), and his siblings, who named the foundation in honor of their mother. The primary mission is to foster public policies, human-service reforms and community support for children and their families.

The foundation maintains the Kids Count Data Center, which uses the statistics and data to measure the educational, social, economic and physical well-being of children. The Data Center features hundreds of indicators with more than 4 million data points.

The number of Washington children living in poverty increased 3 percentage points to 18 percent in 2011. Children whose parents lack secure employment also increased from 26 percent in 2008 to 33 percent in 2011.

Children’s education has held steady in the past several years with marginal improvements in some areas. The number of high-school students not graduating on time decreased 4 percentage points to 23 percent, and 59 percent of children do not attend preschool compared with 62 percent about five years ago.

The report also ranked Washington sixth in the country for children’s health, which it attributes to the state’s investment. Lori Pfingst, senior policy analyst for the Washington State Budget & Policy Center, points to 2008’s Apple Health for Kids program, which insured an additional 33,000 kids in the state. Nearly 100,000 children, or 6 percent of kids in Washington, remain without health insurance.

The number of child and teen deaths, as well as the number of adolescents who abuse drugs, also decreased, according to the report.

Lurking in the aggregate data are large disparities between children of African-American, Latino and Native-American descent and children of white or Asian-American descent.

One in three African-American or Latino children live in poverty, which is twice the overall rate.

Twenty percent of Native-American children lack health insurance, compared with 6 percent for the state overall.

Children’s Alliance director Maranan reiterates that better data are needed to understand why these disparities exist, so that policies to address the gaps can be put into place.

“The state of the state is very intertwined with how well all kids do — especially the kids who are most behind,” said Maranan. “The action that the Legislature is taking now will set the course for the future.”

Sarah Zhang: 206-464-2195 or szhang@seattletimes.com

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