A new report paints a bleak picture of Florida’s children, particularly non-white children. “The Well-Being of Florida’s Children: Is Our Future at Risk?” was released June 12 by the non-profit, non-partisan Voices for Florida. It examines the well-being of Florida’s children by analyzing available data and funding trends.
Over four years, from 2006-2010, the number of children in poverty has increased by 35 percent. That accounts for 235,000 more children. Black and Hispanic children have significantly higher poverty rates than white children and have seen the greatest increases.
Children born to single mothers are more likely to live in poverty. And despite a drop in the teen birth rate, 10 percent of births in the state are to teen mothers. Ninety percent of which are unwed.
Florida has higher rates of infant mortality, low birth weight babies and late entry into prenatal care than the nation. Again, there are significant racial disparities. Black babies die at twice the rate of white babies.
Many children in Florida don’t have health insurance — in fact, the state has one of the highest rates of uninsured children, second only to Texas.
The report also looked at education, school readiness, performance and drop-outs; food issues, both obesity and food insecurity; child abuse and foster care; and juvenile delinquency.
- More children are attending Florida’s Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten program but the percent of children who test “ready for kindergarten” hasn’t changed much.
- The number of homeless students has almost doubled since 2006.
- 25% of Florida’s K-12 children are responsible for taking care of themselves after school.
- The rate of food insecurity in Florida is worse than the national average.
In addition to looking at the data, the report also examined Florida’s investment in children.
- Funding for education declined from 2005-2010 by 17 percent.
- Florida’s Medicaid spending per enrollee ranks 42nd in the nation.
- Funding for non-Medicaid health and human services decreased $921.5 million (25 percent) from four years ago.
The report found that children face critical issues affecting their well-being, while funding continually decreases. The authors of the report conclude that attention must be given to examining opportunities for acquiring more revenue through a comprehensive review of the cost benefits linked to the billions of dollars in lost revenue due to tax preferences.