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Report on well-being of children in the state released by Maine Children’s Alliance

The well-being of Maine's youth
The well-being of Maine's youth
Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 5:43 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) -The Maine Children’s Alliance has released its latest Maine Kids Count report on the well-being of youth across the state.

”This isn’t just a book of numbers.”

Maine Children’s Alliance executive director Stephanie Eglinton says the 2021 Maine Kids Count data book has been released during an unprecedented time in the state’s history.

There are both postive trends and areas of concern.

“It’s also a time that policies can change, and policies can become more equitable.” says Helen Hemminger, Maine Children’s Alliance researcher and Kids Count associate.

The report covers a wide range of topics on the physical, social, economic, and educational well-being of Maine children.

Much of the information in the report reflects the situation in the state just before the pandemic began, but the pandemic is highlighted as a major stressor.

“The childcare crisis was a huge stress for families.” said Eglinton.

Facing difficult decisions about sending children to school for the first time during a pandemic, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten enrollment dropped 16-percent in 2020.

Hemminger commented on the major impact the pandemic has had on students of all ages. “Some use the term learning loss, but I think it’s more than that. I think it’s an emotional change and a whole sense that a lot of things have shifted.”

Mental health is another major concern. In 2019, 16-percent of children were reported as having anxiety problems, the highest rate in the nation.

Data shows the pandemic has only worsened that problem.

“I think all of us out in the world have a sense of how hard it is for kids and how many things have changed.” said Hemminger.

33,000 children in the state were living in poverty in 2019, with 12,600 of those in deep poverty. (with family incomes below $13,000)

The poverty rate for Black children in Maine was over 45-percent, a third over the national average and the highest rate in the country.

“The American Rescue Plan, Covid relief that is coming to the state could really be significant in addressing many of these concerns.” said Eglinton.

On a positive note, high school graduation rates continue to improve while juvenile arrests and young teen pregnancies continue to trend downward.

Eglinton says she hopes legislators and organizations around the state can use the data to better help Maine’s youth.

“Kids are the future of Maine, and we know that we need young families in Maine to thrive.”

You can read the full report on mainechildrensalliance.org

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