Aug 8, 2022 - News

Arkansas kids' wellbeing ranks low

Illustration of a child sitting next to toy blocks arranged in a downward sloping bar chart

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Arkansas is ranked No. 43 in the country, per an annual report by the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion that analyzes children's wellbeing.

What they're saying: "More than 1 in 5 Arkansas children — that's 152,000 ... continue to face greater obstacles created by poverty," Rich Huddleston, executive director for Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, said Thursday during a call with reporters.

  • "And research clearly shows that poverty has a negative impact on child health, brain development, school performance and their future earning potential and job prospects and as a state it weakens our future workforce and economy," Huddleston continued.
  • Huddleston added that Arkansas faces a pandemic-induced children's mental health crisis and can expect to see increases in child poverty and greater demands on the state's child welfare system for abused and neglected kids as a result of its new abortion ban.

How it works: The report takes into account 16 factors across four categories. The breakdown is:

  • Economic wellbeing: Children in poverty, teens not in school and not working, children whose parents lack secure employment and those living in households with a high housing cost burden.
  • Education: 3- and 4-year-olds not in school, fourth graders not proficient in reading. eighth graders not proficient in math and high school students not graduating on time.
  • Health: Low birth weight babies, children without health insurance, obesity rate and death rate.
  • Family and community: Children in single-parent families, children in families in which the household head lacks a high school diploma, children in high-poverty areas and teen birth rate.

State of play: Arkansas ranked No. 40 last year.

Although the state improved in 11 of 16 factors, including all those in economic wellbeing, family and community, it slid according to four factors, and other states made significant improvements.

What's next: Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families is recommending that lawmakers make the following policy changes:

  • Extend postpartum coverage for new mothers on Medicaid from 60 days post-delivery to one year.
  • Provide presumptive Medicaid eligibility for pregnant women, allowing them to be approved for coverage quickly based on income level.
  • Allow children and babies in the lowest-income families to keep their ARKids First health insurance for a full year of continuous coverage, rather than kicking them off insurance when their family incomes fluctuate month-to-month.
  • Make it easier to obtain SNAP benefits and enroll in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.
  • Require scientifically based sex education in schools, and make it easier for Arkansans, including teens, to obtain long-acting contraception.
  • Overhaul policies in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, including increasing the benefits.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios NW Arkansas.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More NW Arkansas stories

No stories could be found

NW Arkansaspostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios NW Arkansas.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more