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ND sees worrisome trends for child well-being

On the surface, North Dakota is performing well in setting the tone for child well-being. However, an annual ranking finds certain indicators going in the wrong direction.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s latest Kids Count report puts North Dakota 10th in the nation when looking at how kids are faring these days.

It’s number one for economic well-being, but the state’s child poverty rate has increased to 13%.

North Dakota Kids Count Director Xanna Burg said expiring pandemic aid may have been a factor, but she pointed out the result comes amid low unemployment and rising wages within the state.

“It signals an ongoing need to really take a look at how families are faring across the state,” Burg said, “and think about how specifically are we reaching the families most in need and not just look at how the economy is doing.”

Burg said too many families still spend a large portion of their income on housing, leaving less for other necessities. The state did improve its rate for children whose parents lack secure employment.

Just as at the national level, low test scores were found in North Dakota’s education summary, with 72% of eighth graders not proficient in math.

The Casey Foundation’s Vice President for External Affairs Leslie Boissiere said compared to peer nations, the U.S. is not equipping its children with the high-level reading, math, and digital problem-solving skills needed for many of today’s fastest-growing occupations.

“Our economy is propelled by a prepared workforce,” Boissiere said. “And so in order for our economy to work well, it’s important that we prepare young people with the skills that they need so that they are entering the workforce prepared.”

For North Dakota, the policy experts recommend continued state investment in childcare and early education.

They also say ensuring access to low or no-cost meals, a reliable internet connection and a safe home environment can put kids in a better position to get back on track academically.

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