ND Child Well-Being Summary Highlights Mental Health Concerns

Mike Moen
Prairie News Service

Despite its high ranking, an annual child well-being report said children of color in North Dakota are still being left behind. The findings also call attention to mental-health concerns.

The Annie-E-Casey Foundation's Kids Count Data Book ranks North Dakota eleventh overall, and second in the nation in economic well-being for children.

Xanna Burg, Kids Count coordinator for North Dakota, said when you just measure how BIPOC kids are doing, North Dakota is near the bottom. She pointed out the disparities spill over into the area of mental health, noting there is a lot of overlap of measuring sticks.

"We want policymakers to also be considering how they're supporting families with safe and stable housing access, to healthy food and financial security before you can really expect health and education outcomes to follow," Burg asserted.

In 2020, 11% of North Dakota children experienced depression or anxiety, but Burg noted the rates are higher for children of color. The report also found more children are going without health insurance in North Dakota than a decade ago. The current number stands at around 14,000.

Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said as for mental health, North Dakota is not alone in dealing with the issue, adding it is surfacing around the country.

"We're seeing an incredible increase in the number of children and young people who are experiencing anxiety and depression," Boissiere reported. "Children were struggling with mental-health issues prior to the pandemic and the pandemic absolutely exacerbated that."

Experts suggested opening up care access, especially in schools, might help to reduce the extra stress children are feeling. The report backed a recommendation schools maintain a ratio of 250 students per counselor. It might be harder for a rural state such as North Dakota, with analysts suggesting telehealth or collaborations with community health centers as other solutions.