Nevada has a long road to the top when it comes to effectively addressing children’s issues, a panel of child well-being experts agreed Wednesday in Las Vegas.
Six local experts weighed in on issues facing kids, noting how the state ranks at the bottom of several national child-related categories such as after-school programs, welfare expenditures, insurance, preschool education and immunization.
“This paints a dim picture for Nevada’s kids,” said Denise Tanata Ashby, panel moderator and executive director of Nevada Institute for Children’s Research and Policy.
The panel, which included child health, poverty, education and juvenile justice advocates, spoke at the event sponsored by Every Child Matters in Nevada, a non-profit subset of a national campaign to make children’s issues a political priority.
Mary Guinan, dean of the UNLV School of Public Health and acting state health officer, said the state’s financial woes trickle down to children. She outlined issues related to the growing number of children not immunized contracting preventable diseases and mothers not receiving prenatal care.
Clark County Department of Juvenile Justice Services assistant director Larry Carter and Clark County Department of Family Services director Tom Morton agreed that focusing on children will keep them out of the justice system and elevate future tax burdens associated with incarceration.
Morton criticized the “limited service array” in the state.
“If you really care about kids, you wouldn’t want to move here,” he said. “We do have the money. We’re spending it somewhere, but let’s spend it on child well-being.”
Larry Lovelett, community manager of Nevada Partnership for Homeless, said safe places and networking need to be established so kids know where to find help.
The group said more funding needs to be approved to see their vision for the future through. Guinan said lawmakers too often cut costs related to kids, leaving advocates left to start from square one.
Every Child Matters in Nevada is a partnership between UNLV’s Nevada Institute for Children’s Research and Policy and the Every Child Matters Education Fund.