Committee of SC lawmakers & leaders looks at improving child well-being

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COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — A yearly report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows South Carolina remains in the bottom 10 states for child well-being once again.

Back in 2018, South Carolina was ranked as high as 38th in the annual Kids Count report. The state slipped in the rankings in recent years. Surrounding states continue to outpace the Palmetto State.

In June, the Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children met to discuss this new report and what changes are being made.

Officials said investments in expanding 4K statewide will help their efforts.

Children’s Trust of South Carolina CEO Sue Williams said she’s hopeful South Carolina can make progress. She said, “Back in the day we did what we thought was best and we now know that some of that may not have been the best. Now we have data and research that shows that.”

The Kids Count takes a look at four main indicators, economic well-being, education, healthcare and family & community.

South Carolina is ranked 37th in economic well-being, 44th in education, 46th in healthcare and 38th in family & community.

Department of Social Services Director Michael Leach said addressing issues like mental health, substance use disorder, and social injustice could help improve well-being in the state.

Leach said, “We have to come at a long preventative angles to figure this out and get us out of the 40’s and into the 30’s and hopefully the 20’s. It’ll take a lot of work to figure that out.”

Kay Phillips is the Executive Director of the Dorchester Children’s Advocacy Center. She said addressing adverse childhood experiences – also known as ACEs – will help South Carolina’s children and adults.

Phillips said, “It’s not a crime to have had trauma in your life and that it needs to be treated. I think doing that and establishing the norms surrounding that. And then helping people understand we need to intervene in those situations.”

Lawmakers on the committee said they’ll look at potential policy changes and new legislation they could pass in 2022 to address these issues.

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