Taking better care of Maryland's children

Kids Count: For such a wealthy state, we are doing a poor job of protecting, nurturing the young.

April 08, 1999

CONSIDERING ITS relative wealth, Maryland continues to do a lousy job of raising its children. Other states have more children living in poverty, yet Maryland fares worse in key areas of child welfare.

It would be easier to celebrate the good news -- better prenatal care, lower infant mortality and fewer teens dying violently -- if Maryland did not have such a long way to go. In the Annie E. Casey Foundation's latest "Kids Count" survey last year, Maryland ranked 32nd in child welfare, although three-fifths of the states had a higher percentage of children living in poverty.

Only seven states had more low-birthweight babies; just nine had a higher infant mortality rate. Four had a higher juvenile violent crime arrest rate, and 12 had more violent juvenile deaths.

It is no secret that the level of care children receive early in life determines how they will fare as juveniles and adults. The poor numbers are so hard to accept because Maryland is the sixth wealthiest state -- it has the resources to give young people what they need to become successful, happy and well-balanced.

The need is most acute in Baltimore, which ranked worst in the state for children. Howard, Carroll, Harford, Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties ranked first, fourth, fifth, 12th and 13th, respectively.

Recent efforts to make young mothers and young fathers better parents can help. So can early education programs, better nutrition for children and pregnant women, improved child support collection and a healthy economy.

Our state -- and the people in it -- can improve conditions if we realize that the way we treat children early in life will determine whether we will spend public funds in the future building more state universities or more state prisons.

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