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Report findings show Arizona children continue to fare poorly

(Wikimedia Commons Photo)

PHOENIX — Arizona children aren’t doing much better than they were last year.

That’s the conclusion of the 2016 Arizona Kids Count Data Book. The report, put out by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, looked at factors such as the number of kids in poverty and foster care.

The data was from state and regional sources.

Arizona ranks 45th in the nation, up from 46th last year.

The latest numbers showed an 87 percent increase in the number of kids in foster care from 2009 to 2015. In addition, the median family income went down from $60,680 in 2009 to $53,470 in 2014.

Those numbers were alarming to Dana Wolfe Naimark, president of the Children’s Action Alliance.

“Foster care can be extremely traumatic, even if you have the most wonderful foster family,” she said.

“Switching schools, switching neighborhoods, and not knowing what the future is, that’s very, very hard on children.”

There was a bit of good news. The report showed the number of children born to moms without a high-school diploma went down. There were also fewer kids arrested for violent crimes.

Naimark said there was a lot to do to move Arizona’s kids forward.

The top focus for lawmakers, she said, should be education.

“That needs to start early. Before kindergarten [lawmakers should be] thinking about child care and preschool because they lay the foundation for educational success,” she said.

The second and third focuses would be reducing the number of kids in foster care and restoring the social safety net.

“If we can provide a little bit of mentoring, a little bit of support for shelter and parenting skills, we will reap huge payoffs and a much smaller foster-care system,” Naimark said.