West Virginia is working towards becoming a top 20 state in the nation to be a kid by 2025.
During the past year, West Virginia jumped from 43rd to 39th in the nation in overall child well-being. The goal for the organization West Virginia Kids Counts is to climb higher.
“If we all put our heads together and decide to make child well-being a priority, we can go from 39th to a top 20 place in the nation to be a kid,” said Laura Gandee, interim executive director of West Virginia Kids Counts.
Gandee said the policy agenda is simple and do-able. There are four key policy ideas that Kids Counts is working with focus on total well being, from birth with policies to reduce pregnancy smoking and teen pregnancy rates to education and family success.
“But the thing is, if we can start investing really young in children, for instance in pre-school, when they’re 3 year olds, we can have a dramatic impact on those 4th and 8th grade proficiency scores. So the key is not really to change the education system so much, but to change our philosophy and start investing in children at the youngest ages,” said Gandee.
One thing the state excels at is health insurance for children, right now we rank number 3 in the nation.
“It just shows what we can do in West Virginia when we put our minds to it. You know at least 20 years ago, a bunch of people including policy makers and advocates got together and said we are going to do everything possible to get every child in West Virginia covered with some kind of health insurance and they made it happen,” said Gandee.
The strides we have made are good news for West Virginia’s kids and families.
“We still have a long way to go. But it proves that things can get better in West Virginia when good people get together and decide to make great things happen for kids, and that’s what we’re trying to do at kids counts,” said Gandee.