Community coalitions and government programs that help parents improve their well-being are seeing those improvements passed on to children.
That’s according to the 2019 Florida Child Well-Being Index, which was released Wednesday by Florida Kids Count.
The four focus categories remain the same as the national report: economics, education, health, and family and community. However, Florida’s index includes things not seen in the larger report, compiled by The Annie E. Casey Foundation.
READ MORE: Florida's Child Well-Being Falls
“We can include data that allows comparison at the county level, which means that we may have newer data,” said Florida Kids Count Director Norin Dollard. “We may have state data that's available. For example, the Casey Foundation doesn't have the child maltreatment and juvenile justice data available to it, whereas we do.”
In Tampa Bay, counties that are increasing aid to support parents and decrease poverty are seeing the most success.
For example, Pinellas County has seen an increase in overall child well-being from 45th among Florida’s 67 counties in 2018 to 29th in the 2019 report.
“The city of St. Petersburg… (has) a plan in place that really speaks to educational and job skill focus for residents to really work on not only getting people out of poverty in terms of income, but also in terms of getting people higher levels of skills that are needed,” Dollard said.
On the other hand, Dollard believes Polk County’s decline from 50th to 54th may be related to its dealings with the opioid crisis.
“There (are) quite a lot of resources that are now being diverted towards opioid treatment so that hopefully we can turn the tide on this a little bit and (decrease) the impact of opioids on kids,” Dollard said.
The increase in Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids is also affecting some Polk County parents’ ability to focus on the well-being of their children.
“We are backsliding on health insurance,” Dollard said. “Especially that there has been a chilling effect on immigrants of any status, legal or otherwise, who are afraid to take advantage of public benefits that they're entitled to.”
Dollard emphasized the importance of coalitions that focus on families as a whole and do not just specialize on one concern.
“It's really more important that the issue be taken on by a cross-cutting coalition of folks including government and the private sector that has… focus on children or adults,” Dollard said. “They all come together.”
To see how your county compares to the rest of the state, click here.
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