New study rates Washington on wellbeing of states children

first_imgLess than half of Washington’s 3- and 4-year-olds attend preschool of any kind.Just 8 percent of them have access to publicly funded, high-quality prekindergarten.Those are some of the findings from the KIDS COUNT Data Book, published annually by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and released Monday. (The Annie E. Casey Foundation also funds Education Lab.) The report ranks Washington 16th overall among the 50 states for child well-being.About 14 percent of children here live in poverty, about the same percentage as in 1990 and an improvement over 2010, during the aftermath of the recession, when the number was 18 percent. But the number of children growing up in poverty has increased as the state’s population has grown. And child poverty in Washington is disproportionately experienced by children of color.One of the reasons for so many kids in poverty is policy changes and budget cuts the state made to WorkFirst/Temporary Assistance for Needy Families during the recession, said Julie Watts, deputy director of the Washington State Budget and Policy Center, a nonpartisan research and policy organization. The programs, which assist families with young children, are now serving a smaller portion of children in poverty than at any time in their history, she said.Families that have been dropped from the program because of its time-limit policy are disproportionately black and American Indian. Many of the families cut from the program are homeless, or have at least one family member with a severe mental health problem, she said.“We know the outcomes for families are really, really bad when they get kicked off this program,” Watts said. “What’s important to realize is that these are families with young children.” Watts said she and others testified before the Legislature this year to try to boost funding for the program, but were unable to get the cuts restored.last_img read more