Kids Count Report Reveals Trouble for Louisiana's Children

Source: Kids Count 2016

Last month, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released its annual Kids Count report.It  revealed that once again,  Louisiana ranked 48th out of 50 states with more children living in poverty, with parents who are unemployed, being raised by single parents and fewer  in preschool. What do we mean by more? 28  percent of children in Louisiana live in poverty, and more children are living in extreme poverty than were eight years ago.

How children in our state start out is also a critical factor in determining their well-being throughout childhood and adolescence. This report shows a few alarming trends about mothers, infants and children including:

  • An increase in births that occurred to mothers who reported receiving late or no prenatal care.
    • 10 percent of Black women receive late or no prenatal care, compared to 4 percent of white non-hispanic women in Louisiana.
  • More than 10 percent of babies are born with low birth weight
    • Babies born with a low birthweight have a high probability of experiencing developmental problems,short and long-term disabilities and are at greater risk of dying within the first year of life.
    • Smoking, poor nutrition, poverty, stress, infections and violence can increase the risk of a baby being born with a low birthweight.
  • Hispanic and Asian or Pacific Islander children are more than twice as likely as white children to have no health insurance.

Another troubling finding is that more children live with a single parent in Louisiana, which is partly due to the Louisiana’s high incarceration rate which leads the nation; and the world. Parenting is difficult, especially when you live in communities torn apart by mass incarceration – when the state has, for almost a decade, cut funding to programs that support parents; such as childcare assistance, food pantries and refused to raise the minimum wage or provide paid family leave to workers.

What is clear is that Louisiana lawmakers (and taxpayers) need make a commitment to investing in women and children. In the 2016 Regular Legislative Session, Louisiana lawmakers passed 7 new restrictions on access to reproductive health care and only introduced one provision to improve health care access. The new restrictions are now being challenged in court which means Louisiana may now spend hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars defending these unconstitutional laws. How many women could receive prenatal care with that money? How many children could go to a high quality child care center with that money?

It is time to re-evaluate our priorities –START focusing on improving economic security for our families and getting women and children the health care they need and  STOP focusing on reducing access to reproductive health care and safety net programs for poor women and children.

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