‘We can support each other more’: new numbers on child well-being shows a wide disparity in Northeast Florida

St. Johns County is number one, Putnam County is number 65. That is a big difference in the ranking of a child’s well-being for the two adjacent counties. The Florida Policy Institute released its 2023 Child Well-Being Index, and it shows, income matters.

The index ranks counties using economic well-being, education, health and family/community. Some other rankings in Northeast Florida: Clay County ranks number three, Nassau County number six, Baker County number 35 and Duval County ranks number 45.

The institute says childcare is among the largest household expenses costing nearly $9,000 per child in Florida. The Brown Bear Learning Center is hoping to help parents out.

Sarrah Brown who owns the facility told News4JAX she’s not surprised by the statistics. “No, not at all. That’s currently why I still have the same rates from when I started out in 2018.”

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Parents who are Brown’s customers said they are grateful for it. “When I first started to look, it was just…he had to stay home. It wasn’t even an option to put him anywhere else because of the price. And I really love Brown Bear, and he loves it too,” Patrice Reddick said.

“I feel that, in Duval County, we can support each other more, you know, if you know that a parent is struggling and they don’t have those fees, put them on a payment plan, but don’t turn them away. All it does is continue to raise poverty levels,” Brown said.

When it comes to poverty, Putnam County stands out. The Northeast Florida Association of Realtors says based on the home affordability index, Putnam remains by far the most affordable place to live in the region. The institute found 34.5% of children live in high poverty areas and 41% of children are in poverty.

News4JAX showed these numbers to the CEO of CDS Family and Behavioral Services in Putnam County. They are an entirely voluntary program, sheltering children and reconciling families.

“We see our fair share of behavioral management issues. We are teaching youth and families how to work together, teaching youth the value of staying in school and of course positioning them ultimately to being part of the economic workforce and such,” Philip Kabler said.

Kabler says in order to help and reach more children in Putnam County, they need more funding to continue to provide the services to help more “corners of the community.”

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