RALEIGH – In its annual report ranking child well-being by state, the Annie E. Casey Foundation put North Carolina on the lower end of the spectrum, ranking the state 35th.

In its KIDS COUNT data book, the foundation illustrates how 34 percent of children live in a home where neither caregiver has full-time employment and one in four children are in poverty.

Laila Bell, director of research and data at Action for Children N.C., says that poverty is the number one issue facing children in North Carolina today.

“We’ve seen studies that show that poverty can affect children’s health, so poor children are more likely to be in poor health,” Bell said.

At a time when poverty is on the rise in North Carolina, Bell said it is important to make sure that legislation is not passed to roll back economic support for people in need.

“We’re certainly concerned about the fact that we are, as a state, rolling back on investments that can help reduce the negative impacts of poverty and financial stress for families,” Bell said.

While the KIDS COUNT report shows child poverty on the rise, the teen birth rate dropped 21 percent and the number of high school students not graduating on time dropped 18 percent since the 2005-06 school year.

Bell explained that while child poverty can lead to higher teen birth rates and dropout rates, additional programs in the state can curb those outcomes.

“So although we’re seeing an increase in the number of children in poverty, previous investments that we’ve made in things like dropout prevention, teen pregnancy programming, even children’s access to health insurance and medical care means that we’ve seen really important progress in those areas,” Bell said.

North Carolina has the tenth highest child poverty rate in the country.