Click-bait lists and rankings usually are empty of any meaning and in the best of cases tell a person more about the group doing the ranking than about the people, cities or states being ranked.
The annual Kids Count report does not fall into that category, though. It examines statistics that reveal how children are faring in individual states and counties across the country. This year's report shows that West Virginia's adults are failing their children.
This year's Kids Count report was issued Monday. Among the 50 states, West Virginia's overall ranking of child well-being dropped from 40th last year to 43rd this year despite improvements in some categories. The state's rankings for economic well-being fell one spot to 48th, while its ranking in education dropped from 39th to 43rd.
In summing up this year's report, Tricia Kingery, executive director of West Virginia Kids Count, said, "We know, the environment here, it's having an effect on our children. We can see the effects of economic downturns, and the effects of the opioid epidemic. Now, we have to figure out what that means for our children, moving forward."
What that means for our children, moving forward, is that they're starting out behind and will have more and more problems in catching up.
Some counties have it better than others, of course.
According to the report, 26% of West Virginia children live in poverty. McDowell County had the highest percentage of impoverished children, with 54%. That was more than double the state's overall rate. Several other coalfield counties also had high rates of child poverty: Mingo at 37%; Boone and Lincoln at 39%. Putnam County had the lowest rate at 11%.
The problems in West Virginia are not unique to this state. The national Kids Count data show that states in Appalachia, the Southeast and the Southwest have the lowest incomes and highest overall poverty rates. So we're not in this alone.
Kingery said the primary target audience for the Kids Count data book in West Virginia is the Legislature. She said she hopes they will use the numbers in the book to do things that improve children's lives.
"We need to acknowledge the bad - yes, we can't ignore it - but we need to hope and trust that our policymakers will use it to make improvements here, to do the work that needs to be done," Kingery told the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
Good luck with that. All this year the leadership of the state Senate has been determined to enact an omnibus education "reform" package that no one else wants. So far no one has explained how the components of this package will help the children in poverty in McDowell County. For that matter, people opposed to the package have yet to explain how the status quo will help those children.
Things are changing in ways that Kids Count doesn't measure. Young people are receiving more encouragement to pursue careers in trade and technical fields. But kids still need role models to emulate. And they need adults to steer them toward ways of living that better their lives.
Some parts of West Virginia are getting close to a cascading failure, where the collapse of one part of the social or economic system will bring down the entire system. Adults can escape it by leaving. Children can't. The legislature and others owe it to us all to examine the ripple effects of each proposal, each debate and each decision on the generation that can't escape.