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Tennessee has experienced slight improvement in providing stability for children, families’ struggles with poverty, health and security kept the state ranked 36th in overall child well-being, according to a 2022 report.
A 50-state report of recent household data developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation showed that Tennessee children are still struggling to get access to basic necessities, such as nutritious food, financial stability, stable housing and safe neighborhoods. In addition, children need greater accessibility to mental health services, a nationwide trend.
In 2021, Tennessee ranked 36th in overall child well-being and ranked 39th in 2020.
According to the 2022 KIDS Count DATA Book, Tennessee also ranks low in several other categories regarding children: 33th in economic well being, 41th in health and 39th in family and community.
Tennessee has made improvements in education, ranking 25th nationwide.
“The Data Book shows simply returning to a pre-pandemic level of support for children and families would shortchange millions of kids and fail to address persistent geographic, racial and ethnic disparities,” said Richard Kennedy, executive director of Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, in a press release.
The Casey Foundation recommended that the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth and other state policymakers prioritize meeting children’s basic necessities in addition to having full access to mental health care.
The report recommended an increase in the hiring of social workers and psychologists to meet the 250-to-1 ratio of students to counselors, as recommended by the American School Counselor Association.
The report also recommended that local and state policymakers provide mental health programming focusing on a child’s identity and culture in order to heal specific traumas tied to these factors. Racial and ethnic disparities are linked to disproportionate mental health and wellness issues among children of color, and LGBTQ children are shown to be more likely to commit suicide compared to heterosexual students.
Data show nearly one in 10 Tennessee children are diagnosed with anxiety or depression.
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