The Advocate (Louisiana), June 21, 2008: Improve La. child ranking

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A recent survey ranking Louisiana 49th in the nation for the welfare of its children has at least two glimmers of hope.

The bad news is that only one other state, Mississippi, fared worse in the 2008 Kids Count survey sponsored by the nonpartisan, nonprofit Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The annual survey measures such key indicators of child welfare as percentage of low birth weight babies, percentage of children living in poverty and percentage of families living in households where no parent has full-time, year-round employment.

Despite its poor showing, Louisiana posted improvements in two key areas. Both the teen birthrate and the percentage of teens not attending school and not working declined by about 20 percent since 2000. Sadly, Louisiana۪s high school dropout rate has not shown a similar improvement.

While there is no single culprit for the poverty experienced by so many of Louisiana۪s children, the Casey findings should underscore the importance of ending the cycle of so many children having other children the scourge of teen pregnancy. High rates of teen pregnancy promise to produce yet another generation of youngsters who are more likely to fail in school and later in life. And because education is the surest path out of poverty, the most important thing Louisiana۪s leaders can do is work together to reduce the state۪s high school dropout rate.

Personal responsibility must play a role in improving the lives of Louisiana۪s impoverished families. But children do not ask to be born into poverty, and society has a moral imperative to help our youngest and most vulnerable citizens find a better future.

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