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Indiana’s 2022 State of the Child: Resilience and a Call to Action

We all benefit when all children are healthy, safe, well-educated, and prepared for productive and economically secure futures. How we care for the next generation is a direct reflection of our values. We know that Indiana can be a wonderful place to be a child, yet when we look at our state’s overall well-being, Indiana ranks as the 29th state in the nation.

The events of the past two years have been relentless and challenging for all of us. Our children and youth have shown remarkable flexibility and adaptability in the face of ever-changing circumstances. They have experienced persistent uncertainty, with little control over their situations. While it will be some time before we understand the total impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our kids and communities, the KIDS COUNT® Data Book examines early indicators of the pandemic’s impact.

Indiana Youth Institute’s 2022 KIDS COUNT® Data Book, our 28th edition, provides a snapshot of child well-being statewide. Part of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s national effort to measure childhood well-being at the local, state, and national levels, this report shows the current state rankings in areas including family and community, health, education, economic well-being, and education.

Indiana is home to the 14th largest population of children nationally. In 2020, more than 1.57 million children younger than 18 resided in Indiana. Indiana’s youth population continues to be more diverse than the adult population. In 2020, 34.1% of Hoosier youth were a race or ethnicity other than White, non-Hispanic compared to 21.5% of non-White adults.

Children are more likely to thrive when they live in nurturing families and safe and supportive communities. Data included in the Data Book’s Family and Community section include housing stability, the number of children living in homes where substance use disorders exist, maltreatment rates, and exposure to violence, among others. Family and Community-related takeaways include:

  • On these measures, Indiana ranks 31st in the nation. When compared to neighboring states, Indiana would be in the middle of the pack (Illinois, 25th, Michigan, 29th, Ohio 34th and Kentucky, 43rd).
  • Of the 7,547 total children removed from their homes in 2020, 61.1% included parent drug and/or alcohol abuse as a contributing reason for removal, 0.8 percentage points lower than 2019 (61.9%).

Physical health, mental health, wellness, along with social determinants of health, contribute to positive child and youth well-being. Concerningly, at 36th in the nation (one spot lower than last year), Indiana’s ranking on health indicators is the state’s lowest ranking, and our state ranks last in health indicators among our neighboring states (Illinois, 20th, Michigan, 22nd, Ohio, 29th, and Kentucky, 35th). Health data points include:

  • Indiana’s 2020 infant mortality rate was 6.6 deaths per 1,000 live births, and Black Hoosier infants are twice as likely to die before their first birthday (13.2 per 1,000 infants).
  • The number of youths calling the Indiana Suicide Hotline more than doubled between March 2020 and March 2021.
  • The percentage of children and teens (10 to 17 years old) who are overweight or obese was 37%, up from 30% in prior years.

To help children grow into prepared, productive adults, families need economic conditions that enable them to invest in their children’s future. Affordable housing, secure employment, family-sustaining wages, and family educational attainment rates are all conditions that create financial stability for children and youth. Leading Economic Well-Being data indicators include:

  • The number of Hoosier children living in poverty was 15.2%, lower than the national rate of 17%.
  • Indiana’s 2021 child food insecurity percentage is 16.6%, down from 19.5% in 2020. While moving in a positive direction, both were higher than in pre-pandemic conditions of 2019 when 15.3% of Hoosier children faced food insecurity.

Access to high-quality education from preschool through a child’s life is foundational to their success. Indiana was ranked 17th in overall Education, making this category of child well-being Indiana’s highest overall ranking in the National KIDS COUNT® Data Book. This also places the state second among our neighboring states. Education data points include:

  • 1% of Indiana children ages 3-4 were enrolled in preschool in 2020, up from 39.8% in 2019, yet below the national enrollment rate of 47.3%.
  • In the 2020-2021 school year, 86.7% of students graduated from Indiana high schools, a 1% decline from the prior year.

The data show racial disparities in most child well-being indicators. Additional barriers facing students of color are reflected in data categories of wealth, physical and mental health, involvement in the juvenile justice system, employment, housing stability, and educational achievement. This year’s Indiana KIDS COUNT® Data Book connects the disaggregated data to historical context, policies, and resource gaps influencing the outcomes of historically marginalized Hoosier youth.

We believe a better understanding of the circumstances facing all children empowers us to work together to build equitable solutions to adverse and disparate health and wellbeing outcomes. We celebrate and are grateful for the youth workers, educators, and caregivers who continuously show up to support Indiana’s kids. To ensure all Hoosier children have opportunities to thrive and reach their full potential, we must understand and work together to improve the conditions that support their success.

There is power in sharing and using data, facts, and information to spark positive change. We are committed to working together to improve the lives of all Indiana children, especially those facing the greatest adversity.

The 2022 Indiana KIDS COUNT Data Book, Data Spotlights, and County-by-County Snapshots are available at www.iyi.org/indiana-kids-count-data-book.



About the Indiana Youth Institute :

For over three decades, Indiana Youth Institute (IYI) has supported the youth services field through innovative trainings’, critical data, and capacity-building resources, aiming every effort at increasing the well-being of all children. To learn more about IYI, visit www.iyi.org, follow us on Facebook or Twitter.