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Support and systems needed for every child to reach their full potential

A preview of Indiana Youth Institute’s 2024 Indiana KIDS COUNT® Data Book and State of the Child Campaign 


by Tami Silverman, President & CEO of Indiana Youth Institute 


At Indiana Youth Institute, our mission is to improve the lives of children by strengthening and connecting the people, organizations, and communities that are focused on our youth. We do this work of educating, equipping, and engaging others in part because there was a time when we were children too.   

Those were days when anything seemed possible, and the world was ours for the taking.   

We all had big dreams and big imaginations. We wanted to walk across the graduation stage and have a successful career. We wanted to buy a house and raise a family. We wanted friends, hobbies, and communities that felt like home. We do this work because we want every child today and tomorrow to have those dreams and want more of those dreams to come true.  

There are over 1.5 million children living in Indiana. These younger generations are more diverse than adults.  

To prepare Indiana’s children and youth for what comes next, we need to better understand what they’re going through today. They are inheriting a world very different from the one we grew up in. Their most formative years were disrupted by a global pandemic. They are growing up online, having never known a time before smartphones, social media, and everyone staring at screens.  

For 30 years Indiana Youth Institute’s KIDS COUNT Data Book has been the premier source of data and evidence on issues affecting our youth. This latest round of data tells us what we are doing right, and what we are up against.  

Indiana has moved up to and is now ranked 24th nationally for child well-being. That’s up from 28th last year. Also noteworthy, Indiana moved up in every single category. We rank 16th for Economic Well-Being, 13th for Education, 29th for Health, and 31st for Family and Community.   

There’s much to be encouraged by in the data. Compared to the country, the State of Indiana has fewer children living in poverty, fewer whose parents lack secure employment, and fewer living in households with a high housing cost burden. The number of children without health insurance is down to six percent. Food insecurity is down.   

There were fewer juvenile case filings, fewer children removed from the home, and fewer Hoosier children living in foster care. 

We saw a decline in behaviors that have long been discouraged. The teen birth rate is down. So are rates of underage drinking, smoking, vaping, and illicit drug use in Indiana. Most encouraging, in the Class of 2023, 88.9 percent of Indiana students graduated from high school. That’s the highest rate since 2016 and the third highest since data collection began in 2012.   

The State of the Child is good in Indiana, but not good enough 

Take the issue of education, Indiana ranks 13th in the country. According to the Data Book 60 percent of Hoosier children ages 3 and 4 were not in school. 59 percent of third through eighth graders were not proficient in language arts. 59 percent of third through eighth graders were not proficient in math. 

Indiana infant mortality is on the rise and the rate of child and teen deaths is higher than the national average. In the majority of counties, there is a shortage of primary care physicians.   

America’s youth mental health crisis is also a crisis in Indiana. The percentage of students who felt sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks increased from 29 percent in 2016 to 36 percent in 2022. That’s over a third of all our high school youth. Today Indiana has the 10th highest rate of children at risk of depression. We are 15th for youth at risk for suicidal ideation. In 2022, 17 percent of our high school students reported seriously considered suicide. Here in Indiana, young girls are twice as likely to report these mental health challenges. We are only now beginning to understand this crisis – from the impacts of the pandemic to the role of social media – but we can begin to act. 

At its heart, the 2024 KIDS COUNT Data Book is a measure of how we value our children. It is really a report card for adults. It tells us where we’re succeeding and where we’re failing. It tells us where we can do better. It’s the state of our schools, our economy, and our healthcare system. It’s what we tolerate and what we prioritize. 

The good news is we know what works. The data shows overall improvements partly because of investments made during the pandemic. That tells us we can improve outcomes if we invest time, effort, and resources wisely.  

We cannot guarantee a happy childhood. But we can make those experiences both worthwhile and rewarding. We can be there to listen. We can open new doors of opportunity. We can help kids overcome adversity. We can provide the support and systems needed for each child to reach their full potential. And, in doing so, we can encourage them, and our state, to thrive.