Room to improve

A recent report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the 2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book, ranked New Hampshire No. 1 in the United States for overall child well-being. We all know that New Hampshire is a great place to call home, and some have highlighted the report as proof that we have done enough for our children. But, even as we celebrate, it’s also important to note that New Hampshire has more work to do to ensure the health and safety of each one of our kids.

National data masks a great deal of state and regional variations in child well-being. A child’s chances of thriving depend not only on individual, family and community characteristics but also on the state in which she or he is born and raised. State policy choices and investments also strongly influence children’s chances for success.

Up to this point, in New Hampshire, local communities have stepped up to the plate to safeguard child well-being even when state investments are lacking. Going forward, our lawmakers must continue to support all Granite State children, regardless of their income level, race, or residence, to keep our number one ranking and ensure New Hampshire is the best state it can be for our children and young families. Heading into the next legislative session, they should be looking to address some major issues facing our state when it comes to supporting children, including child protection and the continuing substance misuse crisis.

We know that substance misuse in the home and child abuse and neglect both have drastic long-term, negative effects on children. These adverse childhood experiences not only hurt children in the short-term, but also can lead to major problems later in life, including an increased chance of misusing substances, increased risk of heart disease, and even early death.

Without addressing these drastic concerns for our state now, how can we ensure that New Hampshire maintains our number one ranking going forward? With a generation of New Hampshire’s children being affected by these crises, it seems a serious possibility that our standing will slip as these adverse childhood experiences catch up to our youngest generation.

Supporting whole families with access to services will help to end these crises and ensure New Hampshire children are given what they need to thrive now and in the future. Backing a system of Family Resource Centers and increasing access to home visiting, both proven strategies to protect children and families, are some first steps our lawmakers should take to keep the Granite State’s number one placement.

New Hampshire is clearly first in the nation in many ways. We should do everything in our power to maintain this spot.