Annual child well-being report ranks Missouri 27th among states

Child being examined by doctor

Children in Missouri are facing unprecedented levels of anxiety and depression – that’s according to the 2022 Kids Count Data Book, released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The report finds mental health is a concern across the country, as kids felt the pressures from COVID-19. Nationally, nearly 12% of children had anxiety or depression, while in Missouri it was about 11%.

Missouri Kids Count Program Director Tracy Greever-Rice said it’s crucial that kids have access to mental health care. “In metropolitan areas, we have clusters of mental and behavioral health professionals,” said Greever-Rice. “But in more rural areas access becomes more of a challenge and becomes impacted by non-clinical things like transportation.”

She added that affordable health-coverage options, either through private insurance or Medicaid, also is key to ensuring access to care. About 6% of Missouri kids lack health insurance, according to the report.

Missouri showed improvement in all of the report’s economic indicators, including a lower child poverty rate than the national average.

Leslie Boissiere – vice president for external affairs with the Casey Foundation – said the federal government has offered support, such as additional food assistance during the pandemic, but notes that help is likely to expire soon. “It’s incredibly important that decision-makers seize the opportunity and the lessons learned during the COVID-19 period,” said Boissiere, “when more resources were provided to families. So that we can make sure that every child has their basic needs met and that the overall well-being of children increases.”

Sore spots for Missouri in the Kids Count data include fourth-grade reading proficiency and eighth-grade math proficiency, as well as the percentage of low-birth weight babies, and youths who are overweight or obese.

Greever-Rice said these are areas where good short-term and long-term policies can make a big difference in kids’ lives as they mature into adulthood. “Attentiveness to these issues will make a big difference and prevention is not just good for individuals,” said Greever-Rice, “but also more efficient and a less expensive way to do public policy. “

Missouri ranks 27th overall for child well-being.

(Photo via Adobe Stock images)