Where To Raise A Child?

Remember those dreams of a pleasant life in the Midwest or placid vacations in New England? A Washington, D.C.-based child advocacy group ranking the best states to raise children may convince parents to make these fantasies a reality.

A study released Tuesday by the Children's Rights Council placed five Midwestern states and four New England states in the top 10. Iowa was rated the best state to raise a child.

Iowans are not surprised by this honor. Karen Quiner, a mother of three in Des Moines explains, "It sounds like a cliche, but it really is a great community. There's such a sense of family. I think what's appreciated by Iowans is this sense of community and belonging."

In compiling its rankings, the council considered such factors as the rates of divorce, crime, public high school graduation, infant mortality, teenage pregnancy, children in poverty, unwed births, drug induced deaths, single parent families, and child deaths.

Iowa moved up from its last year's fifth place ranking and replaced North Dakota, moving it from first to sixth place.

Minnesota was second, followed by New Hampshire, Nebraska, and Massachusetts. At the bottom of the list are Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arizona, and New Mexico - and Washington, D.C., ranked last for the second consecutive year.

Council spokewoman Melanie Woodrow explained the reason for such low rankings. "Some of the states that didn't rank so well happen to be more urban areas or happen to be mostly southern states," where violence is more prevalent.

While moving might not be the best choice, Woodrow suggests that parents look into improving their child's present life situation.

"I don't think it necessarily means you need to pack up your bags and move to Iowa," she said. "But ask yourself, 'Do I have young children? What can I teach them about drugs? About safe sex? What can I do to make sure my child is protected?'"

Carol Kamin, executive director of the Children's Action Alliance in Arizona, said she hoped the study would influence leaders to focus more on programs for children, rather than prisons and law enforcement.

"When we are together with Mississippi, with states that traditionally have been thought of as poor states, then it's time to stop giving excuses and start coming up with solutions,'' said Kamin.

Written by Susan Slocum