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Latest Alabama Kids Count Data Book highlights progress, opportunities for State’s child bell-being

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The 2023 Alabama Kids Count Data Book is being released and shows how Alabama’s approach to serving children and families has evolved significantly over the last thirty years, resulting in some improvements. Still, the latest data measuring how children are faring in the state highlights several areas that policy and lawmakers need to prioritize to improve Alabama’s child well-being.

The Montgomery-based, statewide nonprofit VOICES for Alabama's Children has produced the report annually for thirty years.

“Over the last three decades, the Alabama Kids Count Data Book has empowered child advocates with comprehensive data driving policy changes that have improved child well-being," said Rhonda Mann, the executive director of VOICES for Alabama's Children, in a statement. “From local communities to state and federal levels of government, this data has informed important policy changes helping improve outcomes for children's health, education, safety, and economic security – the four domains or categories of data measured.”

This year’s publication reports state trends and county-level data on child well-being across the state’s 67 counties. It explores 70 indicators across the four domains.

“Data is a benchmark of where we are and where we have been and sets the stage for transformation,” said Apreill Hartsfield, VOICES for Alabama’s Children’s Alabama Kids Count Director. “We note the changes such as the decrease in child population and the growing diversity among our children. We celebrate the areas of improvement including the increase in health care coverage and early intervention services and the decrease in teens not attending school and not working (idle teens). And we raise awareness about opportunities for improvement, including infant deaths, child poverty and food insecurity.”

Statewide highlights in this year’s Data Book include:

  • Alabama’s child population decreased slightly from 2021 to 2022, dropping 24.8% to 24.6% of the total population compared to 28.2% in 2000. Hispanic children are the fastest-growing demographic under 20, tripling from 2000 to 2022, and now is 8.5% of the state’s child population.
     
  • Child poverty rates in Alabama have increased steadily since 2000. The increase is seen in all age groups (under age 5, ages 5-11, and 12-17).  African American (38.3%) and Hispanic (36.7%) children are affected at more than two times the rate of white children (13.5%).
     
  • In 2021, 18.3% of Alabama children faced food insecurity at some point during the year. This is the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s measure for lack of access to enough food for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods.
     
  • Early intervention for children birth to three years increased by 39% since 2012, serving 8,236 children in 2021.
     
  • Approximately 97% of Alabama’s children are now covered by some form of health insurance.
     
  • The infant mortality rate has increased slightly from 7.0 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2020 to 7.6 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2021, representing 443 babies who did not live to see their first birthday. Among the major demographic groups, the infant mortality rate is highest for African American babies. African American babies die at a rate of 12.1 per 1,000 live births. By contrast, there were 5.2 deaths per 1,000 Hispanic babies and 5.9 deaths per 1,000 white babies.
     
  • The number of children in foster care in 2023 increased by 16.3% compared to 2015 but remained relatively similar (0.2% increase) to one year ago.
     
  • The percentage of teens not attending school and not working declined from 10.7 percent in 2000 to 8.2 percent for the 2017 to 2021 sample period. 

Additional findings and a county-by-county breakdown of every indicator included in the report can be viewed online by clicking here.

Baillee Majors is the Morning Edition host and a reporter at Alabama Public Radio.
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