The best and worst states to raise children in

— Minnesota reigns as the most kid-friendly state to raise a family for the second year in a row, according to an Annie E. Casey Foundation study released Tuesday.

Parents in Mississippi and New Mexico, however, might find reason for concern as those states rank among the lowest.

The foundation’s Kids Count Data Center tracks ethnographic data in all 50 states to gauge the well-being of children across the nation, focusing on factors that affect the way children grow up.

They use a carefully developed methodology to tally each state’s composite score in four main categories: Economic and health conditions, education and quality of communities.

The Northeast region took most of the top billing overall, though the study notes vast improvement in the Midwest over the past 10 years that’s seen those states to compete for higher ranks.

The poorest states — mostly in the south, according to the study — consistently score the worst. This year followed suit.

These states joined Minnesota at the top of the overall list:

  1. Minnesota
  2. Massachusetts
  3. Iowa
  4. New Hampshire
  5. Connecticut

These states rounded out the bottom of the list:

  1. Alabama
  2. Nevada
  3. Louisiana
  4. New Mexico
  5. Mississippi

New Mexico had the highest rate of children in poverty — 30 percent across the state, according to the study.

The Data Center considers children to be in poverty if they’re under 18 and their family’s annual income falls below the U.S. Census Bureau poverty line that’s set just under $24,000. The national average leveled at 22 percent of kids in 2014, according to the study.

Comparatively, just 15 percent of kids in Minnesota fall below the poverty line.

The foundation found that 58 percent of kids in Puerto Rico are considered to be in poverty, though the U.S. territory was not qualified in the study’s overall ranking.

Other notable findings from the study include:

— Ten percent of Mississippi teens aren’t in school and not working, which is more than double Minnesota’s rate; and a third of Mississippi high schoolers don’t graduate on time.

— Only 23 percent of fourth graders are considered proficient at reading in New Mexico—that’s 12 percent lower than the national average.

— Massachusetts had the lowest percentage of 8th graders not proficient in math in 2015 at 49 percent. Alabama, in contrast, had the highest rate — 83 percent.

— Nationally, 6 percent of children lacked health insurance in 2014. That’s a 40 percent improvement from 2008.

Baltimore police improve video technology in transport vans

— Baltimore police unveiled a newly outfitted transport van fleet on Tuesday that features video recording technology and divided seating compartments.

“It’s an opportunity to get better,” Baltimore police spokesman T.J. Smith said. “With the support of the mayor and the council allowing this to happen, it’s something among may other things we’re doing to make policing better.”

Freddie Gray suffered a fatal neck injury in April 2015 after being shackled without a seat belt in a police van. His death spurred vigorous protests as well as riots that rattled Baltimore.

The city bought 10 new vans and retrofitted 13 others, all of which feature new video recording technology and divided seating compartments, Smith said.

Previously, cameras only provided a live feed of the custody compartments at the rear of the van. Police officers in the van were able to see that live feed, Smith added.

Now, material from those cameras will be archived on the police department’s cloud technology, Smith said.

The new transport vans will have three compartments for detainees and include seat belt straps inmates can hold while handcuffed.

The configuration allows police to separate up to 10 detainees based on situations like adults and juveniles being transported at once.

The Fleet Management Division of Baltimore’s Department of General Service purchased the 10 new vans through a 20-year fleet renewal plan. The funding was in the city pipeline for the 2016 fiscal year.


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