Maryland children are thriving in most areas of life, but a recent spike in deaths unveiled in an annual report on the well-being of young people is raising concern among advocates.
Maryland ranked 16th among states for the well-being of its children in the 2017 Kids Count Data Book, released each year by the nonprofit Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore. The report determines how well kids are thriving by ranking states on 16 indicators across four key areas: health, education, economic well being and family and community.
In education, Maryland ranked 12th. The state did particularly well in making sure children graduated from high school on time. Eighty-seven percent of Marylanders graduated on time; the national rate was 83 percent.
But the state lost ground on children's math skills. In 2015, 65 percent of eighth-graders were not proficient in math, up from 60 percent in 2009.
The number of children living in poverty was 13 percent in 2015, compared to 21 percent nationwide.
The teen birth rate in Maryland has fallen nearly 40 percent since 2010, helping the state rank 20th in family and community domain. The category also includes data such as the percentage of children living in high-poverty areas or single-parent households and the education levels of their parents or guardians.
In the coming years, the Casey Foundation reported, Maryland needs to look at improving the health of its children. The state ranked 30th in the health category, which measured the percentage of children who don't have insurance, death rates of young people and substance abuse among teens.
Advocates for Children and Youth gathered the Maryland data for the Kids Count report. Nonso Umunna, the group's research director, said the number of child and teen deaths in Maryland was particularly troublesome.
"This is one particular area that we are going to look into further," he said.
He said substance abuse, mental health problems and lack of insurance coverage could all be contributing to the deaths. About 62,000 state children remain uninsured, he said.