CONCORD — New Hampshire did finish first in the prestigious 2019 Kids Count Data Book as the best state in the country for overall child well-being but organizers said the state has slipped in some key factors.
The Anne E. Casey Foundation does the annual data book that ranks each state across four domains — health, education, economic well-being and family and community.
New Hampshire has traditionally being in the top five of all states and most states in New England are among the country’s top performers.
In the 2019 Kids Count survey, New Hampshire was followed by Massachusetts in second, Vermont in sixth place, Connecticut in eighth and Maine was 9th.
“New Hampshire is consistently ranked a top state to raise a family, but we cannot become complacent,” said Rebecca Woitkowski, early childhood policy coordinator at New Futures Kids Count.
“In order to continue to promote equity and reduce the negative impacts of our child protection, mental health and substance use crises, lawmakers must continue to prioritize family support services, like home visiting and other services offered at family resource centers.”
The biggest drop for New Hampshire came in the category of economic well-being. New Hampshire fell from third best in the 2018 report to 10th best in the latest report.
Some of the factors that contributed were that 25 percent of children lived with parents who did not have a secure job and 26 percent resided with parents who were paying too high housing costs.
Also while New Hampshire has a relatively low number of children living in poverty compared to other states, the cost of living here is 21 percent higher than the national average, officials said.
The state was fourth overall in education but 10th in the nation for the number of three and four-year-olds that do not attend school.
There is no requirement for public school programs earlier than kindergarten here and 50% of these children in New Hampshire do not receive early education, according to the report.
The state is also facing a lawsuit over its level of state aid to public schools. A lower court judge ruled the state had failed to provide enough support to school districts but left it up to the Legislature to design a remedy.
The state House of Representatives and State Senate have approved competing versions of a two-year state budget, but each one contains a significant increase in education aid.
Officials also noted that 6,000 children in the state do not have health insurance and the number of children living in single-parent households and in high-poverty areas have both gone up in the past decade.
This report said New Hampshire should do more to boost family support services that help children to thrive and set them up for success later in life.
Kids Count followed a national data report on child well-being.
“Both reports show that lawmakers must pass policies that support families. Together, we can continue to ensure New Hampshire children are given what they need to thrive and keep New Hampshire a great state to raise a family,” Woitkowski said.