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Report: Improving economy helps S.C. make progress in child well-being

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South Carolina is ranked 39th in overall child well-being, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual Kids Count Data Book rankings. The rankings are based on economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.

State leaders credit an improving economy and public policies as beneficial to families.

The report, released today, shows that the percentage of children living in poverty has dropped 8% from 2010 to 2015, and children living in families where no parent has full-time, year-round work decreased 16% over the same period, according to a news release.

"We are encouraged by a number of positive data, including a 40% decline since 2010 in the teen birth rate and a 14% decline in children whose head of household lacks a high school diploma," said Sue Williams, Children's Trust CEO.

Williams called the advances a positive step.

"We see slow and steady progress toward improving child well-being in South Carolina, especially where we are making investments in prevention and using proactive public policies that work to support children and families," she said.

South Carolina is rated just ahead of Florida (40th) and Georgia (42nd) in the rankings.

"We want to sustain this forward progress, and efforts like the recently approved Earned Income Tax Credit will help," Williams said. "The newly passed EITC allows working families to better meet their needs and foster safer and more secure environments to raise children. The EITC was included as part of the recent roads bill to ensure that the state's investment in infrastructure would not be borne disproportionately by lower-income working families."

There is still room for improvement, especially on education. The report said 55% of children ages 3-4 are not attending school, 67% of fourth-graders scored below the reading proficiency level, and 74% of eighth-graders scored below the math proficiency level.

"I am excited about the progress we have made to improve outcomes for South Carolina's youth," State Education Superintendent Molly Spearman said. "While we still have a ways to go in improving academic achievement and advancing health and wellness of students, it is encouraging to see the positive results of our strong collaborative efforts that will ultimately benefit our state for years to come."

Added Williams: "For South Carolina children to be competitive today, and in the future, we must provide the building blocks for opportunity now, such as quality early care and financial security, that will help families and communities thrive for the long term. We know that this kind of support has significant impact in reducing the stressors that too often lead to child abuse and neglect."

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