good news is that the national Kids Count Data Book reveals that Alabama
made significant improvement in child well-being. Over the past year, we
moved from 48th to 43rd in overall national rankings. The most improved
areas include infant mortality rate, birth to unmarried teens,
first-grade retention, high school dropout rate and child death rate.
The only area that dropped is the number of low weight births in
Alabama, which mirrors the national trend.
fact that we went up five places is a significant accomplishment, but it
remains a benchmark that reminds us that we can do better. Would Auburn
or Alabama football fans be satisfied if their favorite team ranked 43rd
out of 50? Would a NASCAR fan celebrate the fact that his preferred
driver finished 7th from the bottom? Would any of us who are parents put
a bumper sticker on our car: "My Kid is in the Poorest 14% of Her
of us think that nobody values families and kids more than we do in
Alabama. At least we say that. But what can we do to put our noble
ideals and words into action? Why can’t we set a reasonable goal of at
least being average in how we take care of kids and families?
we tend to think that the challenge is too big for us to resolve. Maybe
we think that the problem lies at someone else’s feet. But it seems
that there are things that we can do. We can continuously ask our
political leaders: "What are you doing to make our children
healthier and better educated?" We can think statewide, but we can
also begin by acting locally…in our churches, in our service clubs,
and in our communities.
there is more good news. Some Alabama communities are already being
recognized for their initiative. For example, America’s
Promise, "The Alliance for Youth," has recognized Sylacauga,
as one of the Top 100 Best Communities for Young People. This
honor comes in response to Sylacauga’s commitment to provide healthy,
safe and caring environments for young people. It is a reason for great
pride, an accomplishment that gives an entirely different perspective to
our polls about who has the best sports teams.
won’t be any easy answers, but at least we can start asking the right
next time, God Bless!
Shropshire is the Alabama 4-H Regional Extension Agent for the Central
Alabama Region. E-mail him at [email protected].