Child Well-Being: A County-by-County Ranking [AUDIO]
Out of all 21 New Jersey counties, Morris County ranked number one in overall child well-being. Cumberland County ranked last, according to the New Jersey Kids Count annual rankings released this week.
Defining well-being as "progress in improving the lives of children," the survey compared counties on 15 measures, including child poverty, health, safety and education.
A steady pattern has developed with the survey; southern counties have been struggling more than counties in the north.
Morris, Hunterdon, Somerset, Bergen and Middlesex were the top five. Cumberland, Atlantic, Camden, Salem and Cape May made up the bottom five.
Hunterdon held the top spot in 2011. Camden dropped three spots to 19th this year. Passaic came out of the bottom five and placed 16th on the 2012 rankings.
To view individual county profiles and rankings, click here and find your county.
Perhaps the most significant factor impacting the rankings is child poverty, according to Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey, which publishes the Kids Count reports.
"Child poverty has increased in New Jersey," Zalkind explained. "The number of children in low-incomes families has increased."
She continued, "It's critical to examine child trends in each county to build on progress and target persistent problems."
Zalkind said some counties are seeing results from using data from the rankings.
"Gloucester County, for example, has made a concerted effort to use Kids Count to address persistent issues that negatively affect children," she noted. "This year, Gloucester moved from 12th to 10th place in the rankings. That's substantial progress that translates to real-life change for thousands of children."
To further share the data, ACNJ will be holding regional Kids Count forums. The first one is scheduled for today from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Rutgers Camden Campus Center. Future events are planned for Mullica Hill, Union (event 1 and event 2) and Trenton.