NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee’s child population has grown rapidly since 1990, according to a report just released by The Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The state now has more than 1.5 million children, many of whom are part of immigrant families. The percentage of Tennessee children living in those families has quadrupled in the last three decades, according to the report.
Leslie Boissiere, the Casey Foundation’s vice president for external affairs, says that mirrors a nationwide trend.
“A lot of the growth in child population is just the result of natural migration from surrounding states—and in some cases, because birth rates are exceeding death rates,” she said.
“We’re seeing growth in particular areas: in the South, in the West. We’re seeing a tremendous increase in diversity in this country.”
Poverty continues to be a problem for the state, with one in five children living in poverty, according to the report.
Nationwide, the number of children has increased from 64 million in 1990 to 74 million since the Casey Foundation first began tracking child demographics in the U.S.
Child and teen deaths in the state also are on the rise. In 2017, more than 500 children and teens in Tennessee died, according to the report.
Richard Kennedy, executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, says most of these deaths involved guns.
“We know that more than 60% of those involved a firearm,” he states. “So we certainly have an opportunity in Tennessee to continue to look at strategies, continue to raise awareness and educate about safe gun storage and looking at other avenues to be able to prevent that from happening.”
State legislators have increased funding this year for expanding mental and behavioral health resources for children, youths and families, as well as funding for a partnership with the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network.