New KIDS COUNT survey shows child welfare data

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - Child welfare is a mixed bag for Florida’s Children.

The new KIDS COUNT survey, which measures 16 data points, shows Florida improving in some measures and declining in others. Poverty and drugs are two reasons for the stagnation.

Nearly one in four children in Florida live in poverty. The ranking hasn’t changed since 2010. University of South Florida Researcher Noreen Dollard says the lack of resources leads to other troubles.

“You know, kids don’t develop cognitively as quickly. It has implications related to domestic violence,” said Dollard.

The KIDS COUNT study also found that three out of five fourth graders cant read well, and that three out of four eight graders are not proficient in math. Advocates say the focus on kids has to go beyond just school safety.

Roy Miller of The Children's Campaign said, “We can’t allow the conversation about children to be only about one issue: what’s going on in our schools.”

Officials say the wellbeing of children has improved five notches over the last 25 years, but 39 states are still doing a better job than Florida.

The National Alliance for Mental Health (NAMI) says a boost in funding for school-based mental health programs following the shooting in Parkland is a step in the right direction.

Alisa LaPorte, the NAMI Executive Director said, “But it took a tragedy to make it happen. It shouldn’t have to be like this. Mental health is so intertwined with so many areas of our budget, juvenile justice.”

And the increasing number of parents dying from opioids is a major reason more young women are ending up in detention.

Lawanda Ravoira, CEO of the DBW Policy Center said, “They don’t know how to express that grief, so they begin to act out. They lash out.”

Despite all the bad news, advocates say the fact the state moved up five notches is proof it can do better.

Two bright spots in the report: the number of kids involved with the Juvenile Justice system has decline dramatically due to civil citations, and Florida ranked eighth in the nation in the number of three and four year olds in Pre-K.