AUGUSTA — Maine does well in providing for its children’s health and family and community environments, but they fare less well in education and economic well-being.

Maine ranked 13th among the states in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual Kids Count report assessing children’s well-being. The three top states were New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont; among the New England states, only Rhode Island ranked lower than Maine.

Maine ranked 18th in the country for the economic well-being of children, 23rd for education, third for health and seventh for family and community.

Last year, Maine ranked 11th overall, but year-to-year comparisons aren’t necessarily valid because the Casey Foundation revamped the report, adding indicators and creating the four broad categories.

Claire Berkowitz, research and Kids Count director for the Maine Children’s Alliance, said the categories will allow the people who use the report’s data to make policy decisions and distribute grants to focus more precisely on Maine’s areas of need.

One of the biggest concerns, also highlighted by Gov. Paul LePage and Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen at a news conference Wednesday, is the decline in fourth-grade reading scores on the National Assessment for Educational Progress.


Fourth-graders take the test at a turning point in their educations.

“We call that learning to read, and then after that you’re reading to learn, you’re reading for content and knowledge,” Berkowitz said. “That’s why it’s an important marker for educational achievement.”

In addition, 58 percent of 3- and 4-year olds were not enrolled in preschool in 2008-2010, only a slight improvement from 60 percent in 2005-2007.

In economic well-being, a growing number of Maine children are living in families where no parent has full-time, year-round employment. In 2010, it was 92,000 children, or 34 percent, up from 29 percent in 2008.

Berkowitz said a major reason Maine ranked third for health is a strong children’s health insurance program. Only 4 percent of children do not have health insurance.

Maine also showed positive results in the new indicators for the percentage of teens who reported abusing alcohol or drugs in the previous year. It fell from 11 percent in 2005-06 to 7 percent in 2008-09.


Berkowitz said the Maine Children’s Alliance staff is concerned about the data it may see going forward, following cuts in state funding to Head Start, child care subsidies and Maine Family Home Visiting programs.

Economic stress and lack of resources in a child’s formative years have long-term effects, Berkowitz said.

“Kids are 24 percent of the population, but 100 percent of our future,” she said. “So we have to be looking at this. If we want a vibrant, successful economy and community, a place that is vibrant and a good place to raise a family, we have to focus on children’s well-being now.”

Susan McMillan — 621-5645

[email protected]


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