VOICES for Alabama’s Children released its latest report on the health, safety, education, and financial well-being of Alabama’s Children, the Alabama Kids Count Data Book. The report’s release comes as Alabama lawmakers approved historic investments in children’s care and education through the Education Trust Fund and General Fund Budgets.
“Last year, less than a quarter of 4th graders were proficient in math, and 1 in 5 Alabama children were food insecure,” states Collier Tynes, CEO of VOICES for Alabama’s Children. “These are not the outcomes of bad teachers or parents. These are the outcomes of stressed and under-resourced families, teachers, providers, and communities. Historic investments in our children can make tremendous progress in changing these numbers.”
VOICES for Alabama’s Children applauds Alabama Lawmakers for making historic investments in our future, including:
- $17.8 million historic state investment in quality child care programs;
- $22 million increase in First Class Pre-K, expanding access from 42 to 45 percent for four-year olds;
- $1.5 million first-time funding for summer and after-school pilot programs for K-12 students;
- $20 million in provisions of the Alabama Numeracy Act;
- $10 million in flexible grant funding to under-resourced/underperforming school;.
- $5 million mental health pilot program for youth and adolescents;
- $1 million increase for school-based mental health services collaboration; and,
- $4 million postpartum healthcare pilot program for new moms.
Since 1994, the Alabama Kids Count Data Book has documented and tracked the health, education, safety, and economic security of children at the state and county levels. This year’s book confirms the tremendous need for these investments. It also challenges users at the local and statewide levels to look at children’s data as the outcomes of stressed parents, caregivers, providers, and educators.
“To put it simply,” states Tynes, “if we want to see these numbers change, we must support the adults who raise, educate, and care for our children.”
Among this year’s highlights, VOICES points to the following challenges we must continue to address for Alabama’s children and families:
- Child Care: There are only 1,855 licensed child care providers in Alabama to support the workforce of today and tomorrow. Lack of quality child care is a leading reason for decreased workforce participation. Further, babies need quality care and education as their parents work and their brains develop in pivotal years.
- Health: During a youth mental health crisis and increased family stress, there is 1 mental health provider available for every 923 Alabamians. The latest research shows that unaddressed childhood trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) lead to lifelong chronic health issues, along with significant barriers to educational achievement and financial security.
- Economic Security: While 16 percent of Alabamians live in poverty, 23.9 percent of Alabama children live in poverty (ex. a household of 4 making $24,750 or less). Further, 1 in 5 children in Alabama are food insecure.
- Education: Poverty leads to significant disparities in education. For Alabama 4th graders in poverty, only 37.9 percent are proficient in reading and 12.1 percent are proficient in math.
- Safety and Permanency: In 2021, 3,453 children entered foster care. While cases can have multiple causes of entry, 48 percent of cases involved parental substance abuse.
“The state is making the right moves to do better for our children and support their families,” states Tynes. “However, we are far from finished. With a bold vision and an unapologetic focus on facts, we can see these numbers change. Most importantly, every child can be happy, healthy, and wildly successful.”
Complete state and county data profiles are available online at https://alavoices.org/2021-alabama-kids-count/
Additional state and county data visualization, interactive charts and maps available online at https://alavoices.org/kids-count-data-maps/