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Report shows Wyoming 27th for children’s wellbeing, but 46th for children's health

The full report and all its findings, rankings and policy suggestions can be found on the Wyoming Community Foundation website.

A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Wyoming Community Foundation ranks Wyoming 27th for overall child wellbeing. That ranking takes into account economic factors, like how many children are living in poverty, as well as educational factors, like how many eighth graders are proficient in math. It also takes into account family factors and health.

Community Foundation Director of Programs Micah Richardson said Wyoming's health metrics are some of the worst in the nation. The report ranks Wyoming in 46th place.

"Wyoming always ranks low on health, and part of that is the percentage of children without health insurance," she said. "Even if you perform well in these other portions of the report, your overall ranking is just not going to be that high."

Richardson said the Medicaid for Moms bill passed this year could have a positive impact. That bill expanded Medicaid for mothers who just gave birth. But full Medicaid expansion would increase the number of children with health insurance and boost Wyoming’s ranking.

The report also digs into nationwide problems with childcare. It shows that the nation doesn't have enough childcare providers, and where it does have them, that service is often too expensive for the parents that need it. And yet, childcare professionals are some of the lowest paid workers in our society.

"Accessibility and affordability are the biggest issues with childcare," Richardson said.

She said this is especially true for small, rural towns that might only have one facility.

This has a number of knock-on effects, according to the report, from leaving children without the sort of nurturing environment that would aid their development to costing the U.S. economy $122 billion a year through "lost earnings, productivity and tax revenue."

Seeking to address the problems laid bare during the pandemic, some Wyoming legislators brought bills this year designed to make starting a childcare facility easier. Those bills failed to be introduced or died on the House floor.

There are some 5,000 Wyoming children whose families need childcare but can't access it.

The Kids Count report calls for a number of proposed solutions. For example, it says federal and state governments should recognize childcare workers as the "workforce behind the workforce" and support it with their remaining pandemic funds.

Jeff is a part-time reporter for Wyoming Public Media, as well as the owner and editor of the Laramie Reporter, a free online news source providing in-depth and investigative coverage of local events and trends.
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