“Right for Kids Rankings” Shows States Where to Improve in 11 Key Outcome Areas
Some states will celebrate. Others will cringe. Policymakers, bureaucrats and child advocates are sure to thumb through the pages of the first-annual Right for Kids Ranking to see how their child welfare system compares to every other states’ and the District of Columbia’s.
The 2012 Right for Kids Ranking, authored by Foundation for Government Accountability Chief Executive Officer Tarren Bragdon, is a first-of-its-kind report that scores each state’s child welfare system performance overall, and in 11 key outcome areas. The ranking methodology relies on 41 different data measures uniformly reported to the federal government, and a state’s 2012 ranking compared to its ranking in 2006.
A state’s child welfare system typically operates out of the public eye unless a tragedy, often the death of a child, pulls the system from the shadows to the front page. It shouldn’t be this way, Bragdon said. 1,770 children in America die from abuse each year, and at least 740,000 more are abused or neglected. The Right For Kids Ranking shows which states are doing the best job for vulnerable kids, and serves as a guide for states to improve in the 11 key outcome areas.
The report identifies the overall Top Five Right for Kids states as: Idaho (1), New Hampshire (2), North Carolina (3), Florida (4), and New Jersey (5). The Bottom 5 Wrong for Kids states are: South Dakota (47), Illinois (48), Oregon (49), Massachusetts (50), and Washington D.C. (51). RightForKids.org, a companion Web site to the report, presents nine years of child welfare data in an interactive way, and allows users to chart information unavailable in the report.
A state’s overall rank is important, but its rank in each of the 11 key outcome areas is also meaningful. A state may perform well overall, but may need improvement in a specific outcome area.
New Hampshire ranks second overall in the 2012 Right for Kids Ranking, but ranks 36th in Outcome 4—length of time before a state safely returns children to their biological families whenever possible and appropriate.
The Granite State could learn how to improve its Outcome 4 performance from a state like Mississippi. Although Mississippi ranks a disappointing 43rd overall, its Outcome 4 fourth place rank is impressive.
A rare showing of bipartisanship made it easier for a state’s child welfare system performance to improve. Last fall, Congress gave states tools for child welfare reform, including flexible funding waivers with the freedom to dedicate resources toward prevention strategies.
Every state, regardless of their overall rank, can and should improve its child welfare performance, Bragdon explained. Now that Congress has given states the tools and flexibility, governors and state policymakers should use the 2012 Right for Kids Ranking as a handbook to guide reform.
Read the full report here
Visit the companion website at www.RightForKids.org
Chris Cinquemani, Chief Operating Officer
239.244.8808 (o), 207.240.7090 (m) chris@FloridaFGA.org