COLUMBUS, Ohio - A new report calls for continued work to ensure Ohio children from all walks of life have the opportunity to thrive.
The state ranks 27th nationally in The Annie E. Casey Foundation's 2019 KIDS COUNT Data Book with progress over the past several years in more than half of the report's indicators for well-being.
Child poverty has lessened - however it's still slightly higher in Ohio than the national average.
And Tracy Najera, executive director of Children's Defense Fund-Ohio, says twice as many African American, Native American and Latino children live in low-income households than do white children.
"Ohio's future generation is its most diverse yet," she states. "And it's important that we direct our attention to the areas where we have not seen equitable improvements across child well-being indicators by race and ethnicity. Pushing for policies that level the playing field for all Ohio children is really important."
Najera explains policies that support a parent's education and employment can have a positive impact on a child's long-term educational outcomes.
However, the report found that in Ohio nearly three times more Latino children and almost two times more black children have parents who lack a high school diploma compared to that of white children.
The report comes as the Ohio Senate debates the state's two-year budget.
Najera says lawmakers are doing more to increase access to high quality affordable child care, but she contends additional measures are needed to help families ensure their children's needs are being met.
"What that means is making sure that all children have access to health insurance and services like the CHIP program," she stresses. "And also making sure that working families have access to nutrition services like SNAP."
This year marks the 30th year for the Data Book, and Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs for the Casey Foundation, contends public policies should ensure all children have the opportunity to realize their full potential.
"All 74 million children in this country deserve brighter futures," she states. "Children represent 25% of the population but they are 100% of our future. And when we invest in all children our communities are stronger and also the country is stronger."
The report notes the 2010 census missed 2.2 million children under five years old, and it calls for an accurate 2020 count to ensure the proper allocation of federal funding for programs that support children.