We must do better for Ohio’s children

As a HR specialist and someone who is very committed to our Columbus community, I attach great importance to data – whether quantitative, statistical or qualitative, the lived reality of individuals in our communities.

As a member of the Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio State Advisory Board, I also know that children don’t get to pieces.

We need to look at the whole child and understand that all needs – nutrition, housing, education, behavioral health, and more – must be considered in order to achieve full wellbeing. The KIDS COUNT Databook 2021, a 50-state annual report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, shows that we as a state have a lot of work to do.

The report tracks child well-being in the United States, shows how children fared prior to the pandemic, and the challenges children and families faced during the pandemic.

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The report confirms that returning to pre-pandemic support levels for children and families would not address the challenges of COVID-19 and would not sustain an equitable recovery from COVID-19.

With clear data and facts, it shows that we need to better address food and housing insecurity and ensure children and families have access to quality health care and education because Ohio is one of the following:

· 28. in education. This is the third year Ohio has fallen further down the ranking for this indicator.

· 29. in the health sector. The Ohio kids were less healthy in 2019 than in 2010.

· 34. in the family and community context. In 2019 there were 8% more child and adolescent deaths compared to 2010. The number of low birth weight babies increased from 8.5% in 2018 to 8.6% in 2019, which equates to approximately 11,500 babies in Ohio who may face serious health problems.

It also highlights some of the challenges our children and families face today and will continue to face if we do not seize opportunities to improve their livelihoods.

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According to the report, Ohio data from the US Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey last year showed that 1 in 4 households with children said they felt hopeless; During the pandemic, 28% of black households with children often did not have enough to eat (compared to 11% of white families). And 43% of Latino and 42% of black households with children had little or no confidence in their ability to pay the rent or mortgage for the next month (compared to 15% of white families).

While it is too early to fully assess the impact of the pandemic on our children and their futures, it is very clear that we must prioritize investments for children, families and communities to support equitable and healthy recovery.

The report calls on all of us to support measures that reduce poverty and help families achieve financial stability in order to lay a foundation for their future success, such as the expansion and permanent introduction of the child tax credit, the priority recovery effort for our am hardest hit colored communities, and strengthening our education system – from early childhood to post-secondary education to human resource development.

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As a state, Ohio has a long history of innovation and leadership – now is the time to honor that history by doing everything we can for our children and their future.

Aisha Allen is Vice President of Culture, Engagement and Inclusion at OhioHealth and Chief Diversity Officer. She is a member of the Advisory Board of the Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio.