New data ranks Florida 31st in the country for overall child well-being, however, it showed parents are tapped out on child care costs.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2023 Kids Count Data Book shows Florida made slight improvements, but remains in the bottom half among states in three of the four areas the group tracks.
The Sunshine State ranks 37th in economic well-being, 33rd in health, and 32nd in family and community.
Norin Dollard, senior policy analyst and Kids Count director for the Florida Policy Institute, said despite the minor progress in some areas, the availability and cost of child care are putting extreme pressure on parents.
“You know, 13% of Florida’s families had changes in their jobs — either they left their job, they reduced their hours, they had to make some accommodation — because of child care issues,” Dollard pointed out.
The report found women are five to eight times more likely than men to experience negative employment consequences related to caregiving. Dollard argued more work is needed, including expanded subsidies for child care, so parents can afford transportation, among other needs.
The average cost of center-based child care in Florida for a toddler in 2021 was almost $8,700, which is 9% of median income for a couple, and 26% of a single mom’s income.
Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said the child care system across the country is long overdue for some serious investments.
“The country has never had a child care system that is affordable and accessible to families and also pays a family-sustaining wage to workers,” Boissiere contended. “It’s imperative that we invest in a child care system that can work not only for kids and families, but also for our businesses and the economy.”
The report cited the federal expanded Child Tax Credit as making a significant impact in reducing child poverty across the country. The bright spot for Florida in the Kids Count rankings is in education, where the state came in fifth. But the findings involve the years before the state’s recent, ultraconservative changes to education policy.