Indiana ranks in the bottom third of the country for the health of its children – one spot worse than it was last year.
That’s from the 2022 Kids Count Data Book, released by the Indiana Youth Institute Tuesday. The data book measures children’s well-being across a range of factors, from education to child poverty and juvenile justice.
Indiana’s worst ranking in the 2022 Kids Count data is in health, where it's 36th in the country.
Youth Institute President Tami Silverman said the latest edition captures much of the COVID-19 pandemic timeframe, which she said has only amplified Indiana’s child health challenges.
“A lot of these issues existed amongst our kids in many communities long before the pandemic started,” Silverman said.
Youth Institute Vice President Clint Kugler said Indiana struggles notably with mental health.
“In comparison to our neighboring states, Indiana has the highest rate of children with mental health and behavioral conditions who did not receive counseling or treatment,” Kugler said.
Silverman said the pandemic put a particular strain on kids' mental health, with school closures, social distancing, loss of health insurance and disruptions in medical care all contributing to that.
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Next year's data book will start to illuminate how kids are recovering from the pandemic. But Silverman said early feedback from people in the field – youth workers and teachers – is that children aren't immediately snapping back to normal.
"It's going to take transition time back in," Silverman said. "We're re-learning how to communicate and how to interact with one another. And so, that's going to take a little bit of time and we need to be patient with that."
In the latest edition of Kids Count, Indiana is also worse than the national average for children without health insurance, overweight or obese children, and child and teen death rates.