For  Welfare Decisions

Indicators of Child Well-Being


Indicators of child well-being increasingly are being used by federal, state and local governments and by nonprofit organizations to measure the impact of welfare reform and other social policies on children and their families. Statistical indicators are useful in describing demographic and other characteristics, monitoring of program impacts, and holding agencies accountable for progress towards objectives and program outcomes. In addition, the establishment and tracking of indicators can be a catalyst for interagency coordination across governmental agencies and levels.

Child well-being indicators assess health status, cognitive functioning, and social and emotional status and encompass a wide range of variables including educational opportunity, economic security, food security, and family/neighborhood environments. The social science community continues to address and debate the criteria for indicators that can accurately measure the effects of welfare reform and other social policy reforms on child well-being. At the same time, data sources are being expanded and refined. The federal government, in partnership with the foundation and nonprofit communities, is supporting a number of data collection efforts at the state and local levels, is redesigning national level surveys to capture more accurate information relevant to child indicators, has developed its own large set of indicators and related reports, and is providing technical assistance to states and localities for the development and use of child indicators.

Electronic Resources

Annie E. Casey Foundation, Jennifer Baratz Gross, 410/547-6600.

Child Trends, Inc., Brett Brown, 202/362-5580.

Children's Defense Fund, 202/662-3576 or

Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, Laura Lippman, 202/502-7383 or; Tom Snyder, 202/502-7452 or; or

Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Alan Yaffe,; or

Mathematica Policy Research Inc., John Love, 609/799-3535; or

Princeton University Center for Research on Child Well-Being, Jeffrey Kling, (609) 258-5894 or

Urban Institute, Harold Leibovitz, 202/261-5815.

Publications and Electronic Resources

Annie E. Casey Foundation. Baltimore, MD: Annie E. Casey Foundation

· Kids Count Web Site. Visit

· Kids Count 2000. June 20, 2000.

· The Right Start: Conditions of Babies and Their Families in America’s Largest Cities.

Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. Grants Awarded to Advance States' Child Indicators Initiatives. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 1998. Available at

Brown, Brett. Tracking the Well-Being of Children Within States: The Evolving Federal Role in the Age of Devolution. Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute, June 1998. Available at

Brown, Brett, Gretchen Kirby, and Christopher, Botsko. Social Indicators of Child and Family Well-Being: A Profile of Six State Systems. Washington, D.C.: Child Trends, Inc., September 1997. Available at

Center for Research on Child Wellbeing. Surveys Measuring Child Wellbeing. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University, November 1, 2000. Visit

Child Trends, Inc., Washington, D.C.: Child Trends, Inc.

· A Century of Children's Health and Well-Being. Visit

· Indicators of Child, Youth, and Family Well-Being: A Selected Inventory of Existing Projects. August 2000. Available at

· Indicators of Child and Family Well-Being: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Kristin Moore, September 13, 1999.

· The Child Indicator Newsletter. Available at

Children's Defense Fund. 2000 Children In The States. Washington, D.C.: Children's Defense Fund. September 2000. Visit

Duke University. Social Indicators Network News. Durham, N.C.: Duke University. Available at

Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. Washington, D.C.: Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics

· America's Children: 2000. July 2000. Available at

· Web Site. Visit

Gibbs, Deborah and Brett Brown. Community-Level Indicators for Understanding Health and Human Services Issues. A Compendium of Selected Indicator Systems and Resources. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, September 2000. Available at

Hauser, Robert M., Brett Brown and William Prosser, eds. Indicators of Children's Well-Being. New York City, NY: Russell Sage Foundation. November 1997. Available at

Institute for Educational Leadership. The Measure of Success: What Are the Policy Implications of the New National Indicators of Child Well-Being? Washington, D.C.: Institute for Educational Leadership, 1998. Available at

National Governors' Association. Measuring Progress. Indicators of Family and Child Well-Being. Washington, D.C.: National Governors' Association, 1998. For a free copy, call 202/624-7835.

Smith, Kristin E., Loretta E. Bass, and Jason M. Fields. Child Well-Being Indicators from the SIPP. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Bureau of the Census, April 1998. Available at

Urban Institute. National Survey of American Families. Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute. Visit

Vandivere, Sharon, Kristin A. Moore, and Brett Brown. Child Well-Being at the Outset of Welfare Reform: An Overview of the Nation and 13 States. Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute, November 2000. Available at

What the States are Doing:

Georgia -- The Georgia Policy Council for Children and Families, comprised of representatives from the Georgia Departments of Human Resources, Community Health, Juvenile Justice, and Education; the Office of School Readiness and the Governor's Office of Planning and Budget, as well as community, business and elected leaders, developed five goal areas for positive results for children and tracks 26 benchmarks related to those goals. Data for the 26 benchmarks are available on-line and links to all indicator databases are being developed. Contact: Julie Sharp at 404/527-7394.

Maryland -- The Maryland Results and Indicators were developed through a two-year process led by the Sub-Cabinet for Children, Youth and Families and the Maryland Partnership for Children, Youth and Families, and involving parents, state/local officials representing all branches of government, private service providers and advocates. Selected indicators met the following criteria: they are directly related to the well-being of children, family or community; are well-measured; and, are supported by data that is readily available from public sources at the state and local level. Information about the indicators is posted on the Internet and in an annual report. Contact David Ayer at 410-767-6214 or visit

Minnesota -- The KIDS (K-Child Health and Well-Being-Indicators Data Set) Initiative strives to achieve the maximum quality and uniformity of existing children and youth's health, educational, and social well-being indicators at the state and local levels through the collective experience of partner agencies (Minnesota Departments of Health, Children Families and Learning, Human Services, Planning, the Children's Defense Fund of Minnesota and the University of Minnesota). The Initiative has sought solutions to barriers that limit agencies' capacity to share data; has developed the Minnesota KIDS Gateway, a web-based clearinghouse of indicators; has initiated on-line training on how to use the indicators in policymaking and tracking the effects of welfare reform; and has advanced efforts to include asset-based indicators. Contact Janel Harris at 651/281-9940 or visit

New York -- The Kids Well-Being Indicators Clearinghouse (KWIC) was established by the state Council on Children and Families to address the need for more rapid and timely access to indicator data. KWIC is advancing the use of indicators of children's health and well-being as tools for policy development, planning, and accountability at the state, county, and community levels by making the necessary data available in a more timely and accessible way. This web-based, electronic resource brings existing indicator data and supportive resources together in a publicly-accessible information repository, and expands both the kinds of data available and its usefulness for smaller jurisdictions and communities. Contact the Center for Technology in Government at 518/442-3892 or visit

Vermont -- The Agency for Human Services, in partnership with the Department of Education, the University of Vermont and the State Team for Children, Families and Individuals, an executive collaborative council comprised of state agency and community representatives has developed a set of state-level "social well-being" indicators. Indicators have been established for specific groups (including families and children, and teens) and for several aspects of well-being, including public health, education, economic security, and safety, crime, and corrections. The most current state-level data is published annually. Contact David Murphey at 802/241-2238 or visit


WIN Staff Contact: Jan Kaplan, 202-628-5790.

The Welfare Information Network is supported by grants from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Department of Labor.