NASHVILLE - Fewer Tennessee teens are abusing alcohol and drugs, fewer kids are living without health insurance and fewer babies are being born at low birth weights in the Volunteer State.
That good news comes from the Annie E. Casey Foundation's "KIDS COUNT: The State of the Child in Tennessee" data book.
Pam Brown, director of KIDS COUNT Tennessee, said great improvements have been made for the state's children.
"The 2012 data book shows that Tennessee ranks 36th in overall child well-being, based on 16 new indicators in four domains: economic well-being; education; health; and family and community," she said.
Tennessee scored higher than ever in the children's health category, in large part because of a lower infant mortality rate and more health coverage for kids. With only 5 percent of children living without health insurance, Tennessee surpassed the national average.
Tennessee however lingered among the bottom 10 states for education. Three-fourths of fourth graders fail to read proficiently. The study also found economic hardship still rising, with one in four Tennessee kids living in poverty.
Annie E. Casey, foundation president, and Chief Executive Officer Patrick McCarthy said they believe the poverty trend is not only in Tennessee.
"We now see 22 percent of all children living in poverty," Casey said. "That's an increase of 30 percent since the year 2000."
The report shows that child poverty rates rose in 43 states, ranging from New Hampshire's 10 percent rise to Mississippi's 33 percent. Tennessee ranked 38th with an increase to 26 percent statewide.
The report did show slight improvements in the number of pupils graduating from high school on time and the number of parents who hold a high school diploma. The state also saw a reduction in teen births.
Tennessee KIDS COUNT data are at bit.ly/QqoHDI.