Report: South Struggles to Provide Child Well-Being

The South struggles the most to provide child well-being, according to a new 50-state assessment by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a Baltimore-based charity that works to assist disadvantaged children.

Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi rank the lowest in the foundation's annual "Kids Count" report, which determines the conditions facing children in each state by examining a range of factors including child mortality rates, poverty, school attendance rates and the percent of children living in single-parent families.

Children in New England fare better in the foundation's analysis, with New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont joining Minnesota at the top of the rankings, which are available here .

The eight states that have made the biggest gains since 2000 are Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Virginia and Wyoming. The five states that have seen the biggest drops in their rankings during that time are Hawaii, Maine, Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia.

Overall, child well-being has declined significantly over the last decade because of rising unemployment, widespread foreclosures and other factors associated with the Great Recession, according to the analysis . The report notes, for instance, that 11 percent of children nationally had at least one unemployed parent in 2010 - double the number from just three years earlier. Four percent of children have been affected by home foreclosures since 2007.

The foundation recommends several policy changes that could improve child well-being, including strengthening the unemployment insurance system, improving foreclosure prevention efforts and preserving existing programs that help low-income families.