Editorial: Children fare better in West Virginia than California

The annual Kids Count program took a look at the plight of children and found kids fare better in West Virginia than in 13 other states, including California.

Ranking No. 37 in the nation is not good enough but the ranking reflects well on social services for children.

The ranking is based on 12 indicators: how many babies born with low birth weights, the infant mortality rate, the child death rate, percent of 4-year-olds in school, subsidized school lunches, the child abuse rate, births to teens, births to unmarried teens, percent of high school dropouts, teen injury rates, children in poverty, and births to mothers without a high school diploma.

Over the last seven years, the state has improved in seven of those categories, most notably in reducing high school dropouts (a 33 percent improvement) and the child abuse rate (down 31 percent).

Teen births are up 4.5 percent and poverty is up slightly, although the latter likely reflects the national economy.

However, there is plenty of room for hope.

While 18 percent of children are born to mothers who have not graduated from high school, that bests the national average of 21 percent. A desire to stay in school and receive an education is a mother’s gift to her children; the best way to instill that is by setting an example.

And a look at the rankings show the best thing a parent can do for his child is to get a job. The fastest growing counties in the state -- Monongalia, Putnam, Jefferson and Berkeley counties -- all ranked in the top 10 with Monongalia leading the pack. They are where the jobs are.

At the bottom of the list was McDowell County.

Monongalia’s poverty rate for children is 16.8 percent, the state’s is 26.1 percent, and McDowell’s is 45.8 percent.

But parents can overcome poverty. After all, West Virginia ranks 49th in income but is 37th in taking care of its children. We are doing something right.

Let us build upon that.

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