Report: Areas of improvement needed for N.C. babies

RALEIGH, N.C. — The nonprofit organization ZERO TO THREE and the children’s research organization Child Trends think North Carolina needs to make some needs to do more to support babies and their families.

The State of Babies Yearbook: 2019 is a first-of-its-kind resource that looks holistically at the well-being of America’s babies, providing a national snapshot and comparisons across states, according to a release from the organizations who created the study. They added that the Yearbook compiles nearly 60 indicators — specifically for children ages 0 to 3 — to measure progress across three policy areas: Good Health, Strong Families, and Positive Early Learning Experiences.

In the organizations first State of Babies Yearbook: 2019, it says the Tar Heel state’s young children fare worse than the national average in Infant mortality rate (7.2 deaths per 1,000 live births), Babies born at a low birth (9.2 percent, compared to a national average of 8.2 percent), infants and toddlers living in poverty or low-income households, and prevalence of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) with 11.1 percent of North Carolina’s babies experiencing two or more ACEs, compared to the national average of 8.3 percent.

“Each of the 365,273 babies in North Carolina was born with a bundle of unlimited potential and the first three years of their life will shape every year that follows,” said Myra Jones-Taylor, chief policy officer of ZERO TO THREE. “But far too many babies face persistent hardships — such as food insecurity, unstable housing, and exposure to violence — that undermine their ability to grow and thrive.”

There were positives that came out of the report though.

The State of Babies Yearbook: 2019 showed that North Carolina’s young children fare better than the national average in uninsured infants and toddlers with 4.4 percent, compared to a national average of 5.8 percent, infants and toddlers receiving recommend immunizations, rate of maltreatment of infants and toddlers, percent of low/moderate-income infants and toddlers in CCDF-funded care, and percent of infants and toddlers who received a developmental screening.

“Our brains are built, not born. Brain development during the first few months and years of life has an enormous impact on how a child learns and grows throughout his or her lifetime,” said Michele Rivest, Policy Director at the NC Early Education Coalition. “Where a baby is born makes a big difference in their chance for a strong start in life, and it’s up to us to make sure that every county in North Carolina is a place where we prepare babies to grow, learn, and succeed.”

Study officials say their work reveals where you are born — and factors like race, ethnicity, and income level — can make a difference in your chances for a strong start in life. The wide variation among and within states shows how policy supports for babies and families give babies the chance to overcome adversity and reach their full potentials.

“To do better for our children and our nation’s future, we need North Carolina’s leaders and Congress to make our youngest and most valuable resource a priority by investing in things that work,” said Rivest. “Increasing funding for child care subsidies would allow more families to work and make sure more children receive high-quality early learning experiences; expanding home visiting programs would provide critical support for families during a time when they are most stressed; and closing the health insurance coverage gap would help ensure healthy births and on-track development for our kids.

“It’s time to adopt policies built on the science of brain development and support budgets that put babies and families first.”

For more on the study, click here. See stats from the report below.

North Carolina’s young children fare worse than the national average in: 

  • Infant mortality rate with 7.2 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared to a national average of 5.9.
  • Babies born at a low birth weight with 9.2 percent, compared to a national average of 8.2 percent.
  • Infants and toddlers living in poverty or low-income households
  • Prevalence of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) with 11.1 percent of North Carolina’s babies experiencing two or more ACEs, compared to the national average of 8.3 percent.

North Carolina’s young children fare better than the national average in: 

  • Uninsured infants and toddlers with 4.4 percent, compared to a national average of 5.8 percent.
  • Infants and toddlers receiving recommend immunizations with 77.8 percent, compared to a national average of 70.7 percent.
  • Rate of maltreatment of infants and toddlers with 4.4, compared to a national average of 16.
  • Percent of low/moderate-income infants and toddlers in CCDF-funded care with 5.1 percent, compared to a national average of 4.2 percent.
  • Percent of infants and toddlers who received a developmental screening with 47.6 percent, compared to a national average of 30.4 percent.

From poverty and racial inequalities to access to affordable housing and child care, the littlest in America face big challenges, according to the Yearbook:

  • Almost half of U.S. babies live in poor or low-income families that struggle to make ends meet.
  • Almost 1 in 4 babies live in poverty, making children under age 3 the age group most likely to experience poverty.
  • More than 8 percent of babies and toddlers have already had two or more adverse experiences, such as maltreatment or parental separation or divorce.
  • Only six states and the District of Columbia offer paid family leave, a policy that enables families to support the well-being of infants and other family members.
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