LEWISTON – Maine remains one of the best states when it comes to the well-being of children, but its ranking has dropped since 2000, according to the annual “Kids Count Data Book” report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Maine has fallen from No. 5 in 2000 to No. 15 this year, and one of the biggest reasons for the drop is a greater number of Maine children living in poverty, said Laura Beavers, a researcher and author of the annual report.
The number of Maine children living in poverty has grown from 12 percent in 2000 to 17 percent this year, the report said. In the report, poverty is defined as a family of four with $19,806 or less of annual income.
“Kids who grow up in poverty have worse outcomes on a lot of different measures,” Beavers said. They’re less likely to get health care, more likely to miss school, and less likely to have quality child care, she added.
Their daily quality of life also can suffer, she said. “Their parents tend to be more stressed and have less time for the kids.”
Another concern cited in the report is that the number of high school dropouts and “idle teens” who don’t work and who aren’t in school is growing, Beavers said.
Also, Maine has a higher proportion of children lingering in foster care. For every 1,000 Maine children, 12 were in foster care, compared with 10 for every 1,000 nationally.
“Kids who age out of foster care without permanent attachment to family members have greater odds they’ll be poor as adults, will be undereducated and underemployed,” Beavers said.
Among the bright spots: Maine has fewer children who go without health coverage, 7 percent compared to 11 percent nationally, the report said.
Another plus is the continued decline in the number of Maine teenagers having babies. Nationally, there were 41 teen births for every 1,000. Maine’s rate is 24 for every 1,000 births, the report said.