Tuesday, July 27, 1999

For raising kids,
isles rank among
top states

The national Children's Rights
Council places Hawaii 13th on the
list; Maine is ranked first

By Pete Pichaske and Pat Omandan


WASHINGTON -- Hawaii remains one of the best states in which to raise children, according to a national child advocacy group.

But at least one state lawmaker says we can do better.

The Washington-based Children's Rights Council today released its annual list of the best (and worst) states in which to raise a child, and Hawaii was ranked 13th among them.

The council picked 10 criteria to rate how well children fared, then ranked states based on how they stacked up against other states. The criteria were: child abuse and neglect; immunizations; school dropout rate; number of children living in poverty; child death rate; infant mortality; prenatal care; juvenile crime; divorce rate; and teen births.

The isles were ranked among the best states in four of the criteria: rate of child abuse and neglect; school dropout rate; child death rate; and infant mortality rate.

"Overall, Hawaii looks pretty good," said Fatima Saadat of the Children's Rights Council. "Any state above 25 is doing pretty good."

The top states

The Children's Rights Council's ranking of top states in which to raise a child:

1. Maine
2. Massachusetts
3. Connecticut
4. Vermont
5. New Hampshire
6. North Dakota
7. Maryland
8. Kansas
9. Wisconsin
10. Iowa
13. Hawaii

State Rep. Dennis Arakaki (D, Kalihi Valley) said today the high ranking is a reflection that the state does and has paid a lot of attention to its children, especially over the past 10 years.

"I think the 13th ranking is a reflection of the kind of kid-friendly policies we've had over the past 10 years, especially when we had the resources," said Arakaki, a member of the Keiki Caucus that annually advocates for children's issues at the State Legislature.

Nevertheless, he said, Hawaii has been ranked as high as fifth in this survey, and there've been some alarming reductions and cut backs in childrens' services and programs that could further lower Hawaii's ranking.

For example, there are growing numbers of children without health care insurance in the country. While many states are responding with a children's health insurance program, Hawaii has not, Arakaki said.

Also, the number of homeless children and child abuse cases have been increasing, mainly due to drug abuse, he said.

"Eventually, it's going to catch up," he said. "I think we need to take it with a grain of salt and see which way it is headed."

Although several of the criteria used in this year's survey were different from previous year's, Hawaii wound up with about the same ranking. The isles ranked 11th last year, 14th in 1997 and 10th in 1996.

The top states in this year's survey, in order, were Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire. The lowest-ranked were Louisiana, New Mexico, Texas, Arizona and California.

"We're not saying everyone should move to Maine and start raising their children there," said Saadat. "We're just trying to get some friendly competition between states."

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