State Ranks Low in Child Welfare

June 11, 2003
Posted at: 5:48 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, Ark. -- Despite improvements to the state's child welfare system, Arkansas still has a long way to go. That's according to a new report published Wednesday.

The national Kids Count Survey once again ranked Arkansas near the bottom when it comes to child well-being. While the numbers are better than in years past, the state ranks no higher than 47th out of 50.

For the third straight year, more than 1 Arkansan child in five lives in poverty.

"Well, this year's Kids Count report shows that Arkansas ranked 47th in overall child well being and has one of the highest poverty rates in the whole country," said Dr. William O'Hare with the study.

"I'm a little appalled, but not really surprised," said Carrie Cooper of the Crowley's Ridge Development Council's Family Services division. "Arkansas has a high poverty rate, and we see some of the same families every month. The same families come in and need the same assistance every month."

Child welfare experts say that there is a never ending circle of poverty.

According to social worker Ada Sykes, children living in poverty, "are less likely to be as healthy as they should be. Less likely to achieve in school as they should. And are less likely to be self sustaining adults, which will continue the cycle of poverty."

But there are a number of groups in Region 8 doing their best to break that cycle.

"We have a family enrichment programs," Cooper said. "Which is case management. We work intensively with the families to help them become more self sufficient."

According to Cooper, state and federal programs do work, but what each one of us does on a daily basis is just as important.

"Always put yourself on the other side of the desk," Cooper said. "You know, just looking at yourself and seeing how you would want someone reacting to you needing assistance, because you never know when you're going to be that person on the other side of the desk."

Good news from the report indicates that Arkansas ranks better than the national average in several categories: Percentage of low birth weight babies, infant mortality rate, child death rate, teenage birth rate, and the high school drop out rate.