Nevada has made minor strides in caring for its youngest residents but still lags behind most of the country when it comes to children's safety, health and education, according to the latest report card from the Children's Advocacy Alliance.
Overall, the state earned a D+ grade, up slightly from the D- it received in the last report card two years ago. The biennial reports use available statistics, rankings and other measures to issue grades in 19 categories spread among four broad areas: health, safety and security, education and teen years.
"We are the poster child in America for child welfare," said Gard Jameson, the organization's chairman.
The Silver State's ranking was aided by an A- grade for infant and child mortality, which put it 10th among states, and a B+ grade for alcohol and tobacco use.
Most of the grades, however, would prompt a student to hide the report card from parents.
The state ranked last in immunizations for 2-year-olds, 49th for mothers receiving prenatal care and 47th in children without health insurance.
Nevada once led the nation in immunization rate, but it has steadily declined, hitting 69 percent in 2007. Expectant mothers receiving prenatal care dropped 7 percent, to 69 percent, from the previous report. The number of uninsured children fell from 11 percent to 14.3 percent.
The F's in those three categories led to a D+ ranking in children's health.
The worst overall grade came in education, with an F for the second report card in a row. The state ranked 45th in spending per student, 46th in teacher-to-student ratio and 50th in high school dropout rate.
With Nevada already ranking so poorly, child welfare advocates fear potential budget cuts amid the state's financial crisis. Jameson said cutting children's programs might save money in the short term, but in the long run there is a "hidden tax" as those children grow up and end up on welfare or in the criminal justice system.
"The state of our state, the state of our city, will never be better than the state of our children," Jameson said.
Contact reporter Brian Haynes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0281.