According to a recently released report on children’s health across the country, Florida currently ranks 36th in the nation for child health and well-being. The report claims that in Florida, children have been impacted greatly by the state’s economic pitfalls.

A recent press release explains that there has been “an eighteen percent increase in the U.S. child poverty rate between 2000 and 2009.”

“This increase means that 2.5 million more children are living below the federal poverty line ($21,756 for a family of two adults and two children) and effectively wiping out the gains made on this important measure in the late 1990’s,” the press release explains.

According to the press release:

In Florida, over 850,000 children lived in poverty in 2009 and 1,837,000 or 46 percent of children lived in households reporting an income below 200% of the poverty line.

In an ongoing effort to track the impact of the recession, there are two new indicators in the 2011 KIDS COUNT Data Book — the number of children impacted by foreclosure and households with at least one unemployed parent. In Florida:

  • 626,000 or 10 percent of the state’s children were impacted by foreclosure since 2007.
  • In 2010, an estimated 468,000 or 12 percent of children in this state lived in households where there was at least one parent who was eligible for and or seeking employment, but was unemployed at the time the data were collected.

“With Florida ranking as the state with the 2nd highest percent of children impacted by foreclosure since 2007, there is tremendous concern regarding the social development and educational progress of the children in our state as well as future generations,” said Susan Weitzel, Director of Florida KIDS COUNT.

The 2011 KIDS COUNT Data Book, which was released today, reports that the country as a whole has improved in five areas: “the infant mortality rate, child death rate, teen death rate, and teen birth rate; and the percent of teens not in school and not high school graduates.”

However, the country has also worsened in three important areas: “the percent of babies born low-birthweight, the child poverty rate, and the percent of children living in single-parent families.”

In Florida, the percentage of low-birthrate babies was 8.8 percent in 2008, the most recent data available. However, that number jumped to 10.4 percent for mothers ages 15 to 19 in 2009, the most recent data for that category.

Young first-time mothers are generally considered at-risk populations and typically qualify for special help from organizations in Florida, such as Healthy Start coalitions. Healthy Start coalitions are community-based prenatal care centers for at-risk mothers and babies. They provide education and home visiting programs for at-risk first-time mothers, among many other services. These services were created to combat infant mortality and improve the health of babies in the state of Florida.

The Florida Legislature cut the group’s funding this year by 15 percent. Gov. Rick Scott cut another $200,000 from the state budget specifically for “nurse-family partnerships” — home visiting programs that specifically help first-time at-risk mothers raise healthy babies. Because of the deep budget cuts, the organization has had to cut jobs and serve fewer clients across the state.

The state Legislature also turned down millions from the federal government that would have gone to home visiting programs. Legislators opposed the funding because the state is embroiled in a legal battle with the federal government over the constitutionality of the law that allocates the funding.

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