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New report ranks Arizona in bottom tier for baby well-being

A new report from the nonprofit Zero to Three, which focuses on infants and toddlers, ranks Arizona in the bottom tier of states for the well-being of babies and policy responses to their needs.

The group counts roughly 235,000 babies in Arizona in its latest yearbook of states.

Patty Cole, senior director of federal policy, said Arizona’s most concerning demographic factor is a higher level of poverty and low income. 

“The timing of poverty matters. It really impacts very young children more than it does older children. It literally gets under the skin,” Cole said.

Which means that it can negatively affect a baby’s neurological and physiological development.

The Zero to Three yearbook also says states like Arizona can turn federal dollars into income for families in need.

But many states transfer money from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program to child welfare services, which can see poverty as neglect.

“For Arizona, a little less than 8% of families in poverty who have a baby receive any cash assistance. And this could really help them,” Cole said.

Cole said Arizona directs roughly two-thirds of its TANF funds to child welfare services.

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Matthew Casey has won Edward R. Murrow awards for hard news and sports reporting since he joined KJZZ as a senior field correspondent in 2015.