AUGUSTA – A newly released report shows Maine is making improvements when it comes to the safety of children.
Maine is ninth in the nation for child health and wellbeing, according to the latest Kids Count Data Book published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The foundation has ranked states for 34 years and this is the first year Maine cracked the top 10.
Last year Maine was in 16th place.
According to the Maine Children’s Alliance, economic growth is one of the biggest reasons why the state’s ranking improved.
“Our minimum wage went up and so families on that lower end of the income bracket were lifted and as a result, their children were lifted,” said Claire Berkowitz, the alliance’s executive director.
Maine is ranked eighth in economic wellbeing after seeing the biggest reduction in child poverty of any state, dropping from 18 percent in 2016 to 13 percent in 2017.
In terms of child health, Maine is 16th in the country.
“Family income matters. It really impacts the wellbeing of a family if the parents are stressed about how they’re going to pay that mortgage or that rent or pay a hospital bill or a doctors bill. Those kinds of everyday stresses on a family impacts a child,” Berkowitz said.
The report also shows Maine ranked in the top five in family and community.
“There’s a connectedness to each other and to their neighbors that sometimes doesn’t exist other places. I also think our natural beauty of our state is something is almost immeasurable. It’s not in this data book but our kids are growing up in a beautiful state,” Berkowitz said.
Maine’s lowest ranking is in child education, where the state was ranked 23rd. The report shows the high school graduation rate decreased.
“We’d like to see more investment in public preschool, in high-quality child care, and so we’re hoping that the new administration and legislature will work on that and continue to invest and expand those programs for kids,” she said.
Despite the improvements, officials said there still is work to be done.