COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio is doing better at improving the lives of children, according to the new 2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book.
However, the report also warns progress could be undermined by a 2020 census under-count.
The annual snapshot of child well-being includes an estimate that 100,000 Ohio children live in areas deemed by the U.S. Census Bureau as "hard-to-count."
Children's Defense Fund Ohio Executive Director Tracy Najera said if children are missed, the state could lose out on funding that provides critical supports for a healthy start in life.
"Programs like education, school lunches, Head Start, Medicaid, SNAP and CHIP; the list goes on," Najera explained. "Just in Ohio, we receive about $5.4 billion from the federal government for the top 10 federal programs that benefit children."
The Data Book shows progress for Ohio's kids in the areas of health, education, economic well-being and family and community. It ranks the state 25th nationally overall.
Najera noted the risks of an under-count extend beyond Ohio's cities.
"This year's census, some of it will be online. And when you think about accessibility to the internet, it's spotty at best in some of our counties in the Appalachian region. So, we need to think about what are some ways we can mitigate these risks," she added.
Laura Speer, the Casey Foundation's associate director of policy reform and advocacy, said the census needs to fully fund state and local outreach, and broaden the group of people and organizations who can reach hard-to-count areas and encourage participation.
"There is a lot of fear of whether or not the information in the census might be used against families," Speer said. "So, it's important to make sure that groups like childcare providers, churches, schools and libraries are places where people feel safe to fill out the census form."
The report notes the under-count of young children has worsened with each census since 1980, and in 2010 had a national under-count of one million children under age five.