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Pennsylvania is making progress at encouraging strong families, and becoming a state where infants and toddlers can grow up in good health and encounter positive early learning experiences, a new report has found.
The Keystone State is listed among 13 states, including neighboring New Jersey and Ohio, that are “improving outcomes” when it comes to raising healthy infants and toddlers, according to the “State of Babies” report released Wednesday by early childhood advocacy group Zero to Three and the nonprofit research organization Child Trends.
Pennsylvania ranked in the middle tier of four rankings put together by the two advocacy groups, which based their findings on 60 indicators on the wellbeing of children aged zero to three years old. Those factors also included housing and food insecurity, and the cost of childcare and medical insurance coverage. Pennsylvania scored above the national median on those indicators.
Overall, however, “All states have room to grow in how they support parents in caring for their young children. Yet, some states are more advanced than others in giving babies and their families the chance to overcome adversity and reach their full potential,” the report reads.
According to the report, Pennsylvania’s infants and toddlers are less likely to face food insecurity than in other states (8.1 percent in Pa., compared to 16.5 percent, nationally); are more likely to receive recommended vaccines (73.7 percent in Pa., compared to 70.7 percent nationally); and are more likely to receive preventive medical care.
However, the state lags behind the rest of the nation on infant mortality rates (6.1 per 1,000 live births, compared to the national rate of 5.9 per 1,000 live births) and on the percentage of uninsured, low-income toddlers (7.3 percent in Pa., compared to the national average of 5.8 percent).
Some other key findings from the report:
- More than a quarter of Pennsylvania families, 25.2 percent, receive Temporary Assistance to Needy Families payments, compared to the national average of 20.6 percent.
- Just 10 percent of Pennsylvania’s infants and toddlers live in what the report describes as “crowded housing” compared to the national average of 15.6 percent.
- More than 4 in 10 Pennsylvania parents (43 percent) report reading to their child every day, compared to the national average of 38.2 percent.
- The cost of childcare was 13.3 percent of income for married families in Pennsylvania. A national benchmark was not available in the report. But a 2016 University of New Hampshire study concluded that, for one in four families, child care costs consumed more than 10 percent of their income.
- And nearly 5 percent of infants/toddlers in Pennsylvania received IDEA Part C services, compared to 3.2 percent nationwide. The federal program helps states provide early intervention services for disabled infants and toddlers, aged zero to two years, and their families.
And one, totally adorable finding?
Nearly six in 10 Pennsylvania parents (57.6 percent) reported singing to their kids every day (please don’t let it be The Penn State Fight Song), compared to the national average of 56.4 percent.
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