Survey ranks New Hampshire highest in child well-being

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire is the highest-ranked state for children’s well-being, according to a national survey released Wednesday.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count report, based on data from 2016, ranks New Hampshire first overall and second in economic well-being, with drops in the number of children living in households with high cost burdens and children living in poverty.
New Hampshire also topped the list last year. Massachusetts was the second-best state in child well-being, followed by New Jersey. New Mexico ranked last among the 50 states.
However, the survey noted that 5 percent of New Hampshire’s teens abused alcohol and drugs, which places the state at its lowest ranking of 24th in the country.
Jake Berry, vice president of policy at New Futures, a nonpartisan group that wants to improve the health and wellness of residents through policy change, said the report does not capture the full story of youth in New Hampshire.
“While we’re proud to see New Hampshire recognized for the investments our communities make in their children, there are a number of data indicators that are certainly heading in the wrong direction,” Berry said.
He said the report does not account for the increasing number of children being removed from their homes, nor does it fully take into consideration the opioid epidemic’s impact on New Hampshire’s youth.
The Casey Foundation said this year’s survey underscores the importance of the 2020 census, which helps determine federal funding for various programs.
Some critics say Republican President Donald Trump’s last-minute decision to add a citizenship question to the next census could mean families living in the U.S. illegally would be left unaccounted for, affecting federal funding even further.
Florencia Gutierrez, senior associate at the Casey Foundation, said the current political climate surrounding migrant children and families could dissuade participation. The report asks the federal government to abide by the confidentiality provisions of the census act, which prohibits personal responses from being shared with any government agency or outside entity for any reason.
“There is a lot more to lose if people don’t fill it out than if they do. Their children won’t get access to the resources they need to prosper as adults,” Gutierrez said.
In New Hampshire, 14 percent of children younger than five live in “hard-to-count” census tracts, areas with low mail response rates. Experts are predicting a possible undercount of more than a million children ages five and under in the 2020 census, according to the report.
“If we don’t count children, we render their needs invisible and their futures uncertain,” said Casey Foundation President and CEO Patrick McCarthy. “It’s up to policymakers, communities and the nation to make sure that every kid is counted and matters.”