With myriad public health and economic challenges looming, a new report offers local leaders in Ohio pre-pandemic data on child well-being to help guide the path forward.
New 2020 Kids Count County Profiles released yesterday by the Children's Defense Fund Ohio feature research on financial security, health, safety and education — all of which is timely and relevant, said CDF Ohio Kids Count Project Director Kim Eckhart.
"It's a time when, more than ever, we need to focus on the needs of children and families in our communities," said Eckhart. "And setting these benchmarks really allows us to have child well-being as the key performance indicator of an economic recovery."
The report shows before COVID-19, Ohio showed slight progress in the areas of poverty, median income and unemployment.
Eckhart noted areas that need more work include child abuse and neglect and children in foster care — demonstrating the need to support programs that protect some of the state's most vulnerable residents.In the area of health, babies born with low birthweight also continue to be a challenge for Ohio. Eckhart said mothers and infants could be better supported by extending pregnancy-related Medicaid coverage, from the current 60 days after delivery, to 12 months.
"A mother's health is so intimately related to a baby's health," said Eckhart. "And so, continuous eligibility for a year can tie into the measures of infant mortality and babies born with a low birth weight."
Eckhart said the county profiles can be used help to ensure kids are kept at the forefront of policy discussions. She added families are living with challenges they've never experienced before.
"Right now, housing is also an educational institution," said Eckhart. "And so, what are leaders' plans to prevent housing instability and to increase access to internet service? So, thinking about funding for utility assistance, funding for rental assistance."
Summit County was cited in the report as an example of local leaders elevating the needs of children. Eckhart said county leaders there are leveraging CARES Act funding to support rent and utility assistance, food banks and small business grants.
Disclosure: Children's Defense Fund-OH Chapter/KIDS COUNT contributes to Ohio Public News Service's fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Education, Health Issues, Hunger/Food/Nutrition.