According to The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT annual reports, Louisiana has averaged 49th in child well-being among the states for 29 years. For nearly a third of a century, in terms of child well-being, Louisiana’s children would have been better off living in any of 48 other states.

We must know this: Louisiana is not doomed to this poor ranking. Again, Louisiana’s children are not doomed.

Fate did not put our children’s well-being at the bottom of the nation. As a state, we have simply chosen not to act for their benefit. The evidence is incontrovertible. We “let the good times roll” and look away from the deleterious impact of ignoring children’s issues. Today, we pay for decisions made 30 years ago. Tomorrow, Louisiana will pay for decisions made today regarding the care of our children. We create our future chiefly by how well we ensure the security of Louisiana’s children.

Remember, our children are not doomed, but we must change. Louisiana’s leaders in strategic positions must make the care of our children a priority. All of us in our communities must do the same!

Our children are not destined to grow up among the nation’s harshest conditions. In fact, real evidence shows other states have significantly improved the well-being of their children in a relatively short period of time – when they decide to do so and then act on that decision.

Using data available from The Annie E. Casey Foundation, KIDS COUNT Data Center, http://datacenter.kidscount.org, I have created the following table of states which have improved their overall child well-being rank among the states by two positions or more between 2014 and 2015.

As the chart indicates, in a single year, 11 states (more than 20%) improved their rank in overall child well-being by two or more positions. Five states (10%) improved their child well-being rank by 3 or more positions. Minnesota made it to number 1 in child well-being with a 4 position move and Alaska improved by 6 positions between 2014 and 2015.

Note, too, these are not all liberal, wealthy, northern states. Some are even deep southern states! Look at South Carolina and Georgia. In other words, it can be done!

Caring well for children requires effective leadership. The welfare of our children must be a visceral, daily priority of our Governor, our legislature, our lobbyists, our business community, our religious community – in fact, until leaders in communities throughout our state must choose to make the welfare of our children a daily priority. What our own history shows us clearly is that until all of us in Louisiana care enough to care well for our children, Louisiana’s children will suffer.

It is important to point out, “care” is not a feeling. In terms of feelings, only the most heartless would deny caring for children. We all “care”! But the “care” our children require, requires action on by us on their behalf – action informed by our desires for their well-being. Know this: our failure to care well for children will not be due to fate or destiny. It will be a choice.

Louisiana’s failure to prioritize the well-being of our children is a choice we have made in the past. It is evidenced by our persistently poor ranking for child well-being. Other states significantly improve child well-being. I believe Louisiana can, too! Let’s choose our children!

Rick Wheat
President and CEO
Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home