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Report: New Hampshire gets high marks on child issues

New Hampshire Governor Inauguration
Gov. Chris Sununu claps for the Executive Council after swearing them in at his inauguration ceremony in the Executive Council Chamber at the State House in Concord, N.H., on Jan. 7, 2021. (David Lane/AP)

Report: New Hampshire gets high marks on child issues

June 23, 03:00 PM June 23, 03:00 PM

New Hampshire has earned a top ranking for child well-being, but disparities exacerbated by the pandemic mean some kids are being left behind, according to a new report.

The Granite State was ranked second in the nation in terms of overall child well-being, only following neighboring Massachusetts, according to the annual survey by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, released Monday.

New Hampshire has the nation’s lowest rate of children living below the federal poverty line, at about 7%, with 18,000 kids living below the poverty line defined by a family of four with annual income below $25,926, the report noted.

That’s an improvement from a 2018 report which showed about 11% of the state’s children living below the poverty line.

“However, that number doesn’t consider the higher cost of living in New Hampshire that causes a financial strain on many more uncounted families,” the report’s authors noted.

The state dropped one spot in terms of the overall health of children since a 2018 ranking, but still landed in third place among all states. The report noted that in 2019 about 4% of Granite State kids were not covered by health insurance.

In terms of education, New Hampshire was ranked 5th in the nation but the report pointed out that about 62% of fourth-graders scored below proficient reading levels.

Most of the data was compiled before the pandemic, the report’s authors noted, which has increased the financial stress and mental health challenges of many families in the state.

“Left unaddressed, the negative impacts of these crises cannot be overstated,” Rebecca Woitkowski, a Kids Count policy coordinator at the nonprofit New Futures, said in a statement. “When children experience trauma, they are put at risk for future health problems, including substance misuse, mental health concerns, and even early death.”

The report noted more recent surveys showing 10% of New Hampshire households with children have reported not having enough food to eat.

Meanwhile, how about 20% granite state adults have reported feeling depressed or hopeless amid the pandemic.

“This indicates a widespread need for mental health supports for those giving care for children, in the midst of growing uncertainty, isolation and profound grief associated with the coronavirus, the report’s authors noted

She said the report is a wake-up call for New Hampshire to improve its health and economic support for low-income families and others struggling following the pandemic.

“We know that across our state, not all children have access to services which will reduce the negative impacts of this troubling situation,” Woitkowski said.

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