The Annie E. Casey Foundation's 2006 Kids Count study was released today, and while there are some improvements the findings are not encouraging for the South. The study looks at several indicators of child well-being in every state.

Following are some news reports about the findings from around the South.

Children unwell in N.C.

In an annual report on child well-being issued today, North Carolina ranks 41st among the 50 states. In 10 key indicators, the state did not break into the top half of the rankings.

The report, the 2006 Kids Count Data Book, issued by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, looks at a number of health and welfare categories, including number of children in poverty; single-parent homes, without health insurance; infant, child and teen death rates; and the number of low-birthweight babies.

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North Carolina, which was 40th in the 2005 report, improved in five of the 10 key indicators: infant mortality rate, child death rate, teen birth rate, percent of teens (ages 16 to 19) who are high school dropouts and percent of teens who are not in school and not working. Still, all were in the bottom half of the national rankings.

Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, Tennessee, South Carolina, New Mexico, Louisiana and Mississippi ranked worse than North Carolina in today's report, which is based on data from 2003 and 2004.

The state's teen death rate got worse, as did the percentage of children in single-parent families and the percentage of children in poverty. The percentage of children whose parents don't have secure employment remained steady at 35.

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Advocates agree that poverty is at the root of the problem - 22 percent of the state's children lived in poverty in 2004, up 16 percent from 2000.

State kids better off; Alabama now 43rd

After years of hovering among the bottom two or three states, the latest statistics from the Annie E. Casey Foundation's annual survey show Alabama jumping from 48th place among the 50 states to No. 43.

The state improved in the four areas: high school dropout rate; number of idle teens; number of teens having babies; and infant mortality rate. The high school dropout rate improved by 46 percent. Alabama moved from 40th to 20th in the nation from 2000 to 2004, the latest year for which statistics are available. The number of teens not in school or working fell from 13 to 8 percent.

The teen birth rate improved by 15 percent, with 52 out of every 1,000 girls ages 15 to 19 giving birth in 2003 compared to 61 births per 1,000 girls in 2000. That places Alabama 40th in the nation compared to 44th in 2000. The infant mortality rate improved by 7 percent, with 8.7 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2003 as opposed to 9.4 in 2000.

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Despite the good news, Alabama's children are poorer, with 23 percent living in poverty in 2004. That's 10 percent worse than in 2000, reflecting a national trend in which more people are living below the poverty line. The national average of children living in poverty in 2004 was 18 percent, up from 17 percent in 2000.

State way behind in caring for children

Children in Tennessee are more likely to die, drop out of school and live in poverty than kids living almost anywhere else in the country, according to an annual report released today on the health of the nation's youth.

Tennessee was ranked 46th for the overall well-being of its children by the nonprofit Kids Count project. The findings are based on how each state performs in 10 categories that reflect health, social, education and economic welfare.

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Tennessee did not perform better than the national average in any of the 10 categories on which it was judged. And it dropped three slots in the overall rankings this year - from 43rd to 46th.

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Still, the state performed worse than at least 40 others in five of the 10 areas. Its best rating - 29th - was for the percentage of parents who work full time. Yet, the state ranked 36th for the percentage of children living in poverty.

"What that tells me is that even though there are a lot of parents in the work force, they are not necessarily making enough to support their families," Brown said. "There are a lot of working poor in the state."

Tennessee continues to have its worst showing in the area of infant mortality. The state ranks 47th in that category, tied with Louisiana and surpassing only Mississippi and Delaware.

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Kids Count rated New Hampshire, Vermont and Connecticut as the top performers in the nation. The only states ranked below Tennessee were South Carolina, New Mexico, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Ga. places 44th for child well-being

Georgia has slipped in a national ranking of child well-being.

The state ranked 44th in the nation this year, compared to 39th last year in the Kids Count Data Book, which is produced by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

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...Georgia reported a 17 percent increase from 2000 to 2004 in the number of children under 18 living in poverty. The number of children in Georgia living in families where neither parent has full-time, year-round employment also increased.

Few bright spots for Mississippi kids

A new report paints a dismal picture of children's well-being in Mississippi.

The 2006 KidsCount Databook, an annual report released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, ranks Mississippi at the bottom or close to the bottom in comparison to the rest of the country in 10 different indicators of child well-being.

Those indicators are: low-birthweight babies, infant mortality rate, child death rate, teen death rate, teen birth rate, high school dropout rate, percent of teens not working or attending school, percent of children living in homes where parent has no regular employment, children in poverty and children in single-parent families.

Though the state did experience some improvement in five of the 10 categories, in only two categories -decreases in the high school dropout rate and in the child death rate -did Mississippi outstrip the national average, still placing well behind most states in the country.

And in the percentage of children living in poverty, the number of low-birthweight babies born and the infant mortality rate, Mississippi ranked dead last.

New Survey Says Kentucky Ranks Low In Children's Welfare

Kentucky has a poor ranking in an annual survey of children's well-being and experts said it's because of pervasive childhood poverty and a chronic high-school dropout problem.

Kentucky ranked 42nd among the 50 states in the 2006 Kids Count report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Kentucky also ranked 42nd last year.

The state's rankings for 2005 and this year are the worst overall showings for the state in the 17 years the analysis has been published.

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Kentucky improved in four areas - infant mortality, teen death rate, teen birth rate and the percent of teens not in school and not working, according to the report, which used state data from 2003 and 2004.

It appears that poverty, the source of most of society's ills, is a common denominator in these findings. Access to affordable health care appears to be another common theme. Perhaps this will be a wakeup call, but judging from the South's poor performance in past studies with improvements in only a few areas, maybe not.