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Do better for Ohio families and kids

Though elected officials are fond of talking about the progress Ohio has made in doing what is best for children and families, the reality is a little harder to swallow. In its annual “Kids Count Data Profile,” the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranked the Buckeye State 31st in the nation for 2022.

Ohio has nearly half a million children living in poverty, more than 700,000 children whose parents lack secure employment, 625,000 kids living in households with a high housing cost burden and 37,000 teenagers not in school and not working.

There are nearly 160,000 children ages 3 and 4 who are not in schools — we are doing worse than we were ten years ago, on that front.

Each year there are nearly 11,000 low birth-weight babies born here; more than 120,000 kids without health insurance; and 763 child and teen deaths each year (worse than ten years ago).

Nearly 900,000 children live in single-parent families (worse than ten years ago); nearly 230,000 kids live in families where the head of household lacks a high school diploma; more than 280,000 kids live in high-poverty areas and there are more than 6,400 teen births annually.

Meanwhile, chronic absenteeism in schools has seen a dramatic increase; and families continue to struggle with the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There are still many uncertainties and challenges that lie ahead of us, but one thing is clear we must do our best to ensure (children) are properly cared for in the midst of this pandemic,” Tracy Najera, state director for the Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio, told the Ohio Capital Journal.

That’s harder to do when few elected officials are willing to admit there is a problem. Lawmakers have — still — not developed a constitutional school funding formula, for goodness sake. Many of them are too busy talking about how to keep our kids from learning too much; and pouring all their energy into the abortion debate without worrying much about whether we’re doing right for those kids as they grow up.

If taking care of our kids and families is as important to them as politicians want us to believe it is, the Kids Count study shows it is well past time they start acting like it.

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