Monday numbers: Our children are hurting and here’s why

By: - August 22, 2022 6:00 am
a teacher works with a group of young children

Getty Image/Photo: Klaus Vedfelt

Getty Image/Photo: Klaus Vedfelt

As parents busy themselves gathering last minute back-to-school items for their children, North Carolina’s educators are prepping for what could be one of the most challenging years on record.

Masks and social-distancing will be less common this year, but the pandemic has left an indelible mark on our children.

A new report by the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion documents that children are strug­gling with anx­i­ety and depres­sion at unprece­dent­ed lev­els.

More than 1 mil­lion peo­ple in Amer­i­ca have died from the nov­el coro­n­avirus as of July 2022. More than 200,000 kids have lost a par­ent or pri­ma­ry care­giv­er during the pandemic.

One small bright spot coming out of the pandemic: the percent of children living in poverty in North Carolina has fallen from 24% in 2008-11 to 20% in 2016-20. That decline in large part is due to federal relief measures, like the Economic Impact Payments to families and emergency rental assistance.

“We met the challenge of child poverty by investing in policies and programs proven to work in 2020, which was a time of massive financial stress for many American families. We have the tools to meet the challenges of the youth mental health crisis now,” said Kaylan Szafranski, health policy director at NC Child. “This year’s Data Book shows that the need for comprehensive, wrap-around care, including mental health care, is urgent for our state’s families.”

This week as students return to school, we take a closer look at how children in our state are faring based on the 33rd edition of the KIDS COUNT Data Book:

200,000+ – Number of children nationwide to have lost a parent or primary caregiver from the novel coronavirus

1,600+ – Number of children nationwide who died from the coronavirus over the past two and a half years

More than one in 10 – Number of children ages 3 to 17 diagnosed with depression or anxiety in 2020, a marked increase over the past three years

9.7 – Percentage of North Carolina high schoolers overall who attempted suicide in the year previous to the pandemic

15.4 – Percentage of Latinx students who attempted suicide in the year previous to the pandemic

250-to-1 – Recommended ratio of students to counselors recommended by the American School Counselor Association

354-to-1 – North Carolina’s ratio of students to counselors (Source: America’s School Mental Health Report Card)

988 – The three digit Suicide & Crisis Lifeline provides 24/7 service via a toll-free hotline with the number 9-8-8. It is available free to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. The previous Lifeline phone number (1-800-273-8255) also remains available.

34 – North Carolina’s overall ranking among the states in the 2022 KIDS COUNT Data Book

Of all NC children:

20 – Percentage living in poverty

28 – Percentage whose parents lack secure employment

36 – Percentage in single-parent families

12 – Percentage in families where the household head lacks a high school diploma

58 – Percentage of children ages 3 and 4 not in preschool

64 – Percentage of fourth-graders not proficient in reading (2019)

63 – Percentage of eighth-graders not proficient in math (2019)

14 – Percentage of high school students not graduating on time

7 – Percentage of teens not in school and not working

27 – Percentage of children, an estimated 615,000, living in households with a high housing cost burden

Kaylan Szafranski

Bonus Content: Click below to listen to NC Child health policy director Kaylan Szafranski as she discusses the latest finding on child well-being.

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Clayton Henkel
Clayton Henkel

Communications Coordinator Clayton Henkel manages the NC Newsline website and daily newsletter, while also producing daily audio commentaries and the weekly News and Views radio program/podcast.