Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families

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The annual Kids Count report released Wednesday offers mixed news about life for Arkansas’s very youngest residents. 

The state’s overall child well-being index, which is based on a number of education, health and economic factors, improved from 43rd among the 50 states in 2016 to 41st last year.

The number of Arkansas kids living in poverty has declined by 28,000 since 2010, according to the report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.  Today, 24 percent of Arkansas kids live in poverty; in the nation it's 19 percent.

J. Froelich / Arkansas Public Media

 

Thousands of Pacific Islander children now inhabit northwest Arkansas. The youngsters are lawfully residing Marshallese migrants, brought here by their parents. Many families arrive impoverished, but with help from extended kin, parents settle in, take up factory and slaughterhouse jobs, and enroll the children in public school. 

But enrolling into the American healthcare insurance system is a major challenge for low and even middle- income Marshallese, who cannot afford workplace coverage policies or Obamacare premiums. Marshallese adults are barred from Arkansas Medicaid, known as the Private Option. And their children don’t qualify for "ARKids First!" the state's implementation of the federal children’s insurance program. But Northwest Arkansas lawmakers, along with a state children's advocacy organization, are determined to help.