Although modest signs of progress are noted in the latest Annie E. Casey Foundation's Kids Count Data Book - some improvements in the areas of education and health - one troubling indicator demands our attention.

An increasing number of children are living in poverty, conditions that threaten both their current status and their chances of future success.

Economic well-being is one of four indicators included in this tracking of the nation's children, state by state, by the private charitable organization. The other markers are education, health and family and community.

Because of a recession and high unemployment, the economic outlook for children has worsened: Nationally, 22 percent of children lived in poverty in 2010. The rate increase - from 19 percent to 22 percent between 2005 and 2010 - represents an additional 2.4 million children.

In Indiana, 23 percent of children are living in poverty, up from 17 percent in 2005.

As noted in the report's economic well-being section, while the negative effects of poverty on children are troubling enough, they also increase chances of such poor outcomes as failing to graduate from high school. That's not a justification for poor educational outcomes, of course, but rather a reason to step up the effort to provide a quality education.

Here are a few statistics from the latest study:

• Child population under 18 living in poverty (2011) - 22.6 percent;

• Public school students receiving free or reduced price lunch (2011) - 46.7 percent;

• Teen birth rate per 1,000 females ages 15-19 (2010) 37.5 percent;

• High school graduation rate (2010) - 84.5 percent;

• Child abuse and neglect rate per 1,000 children under age 18 (2011) - 12.2 percent;

Abuse and Neglect Rate per 1,000 Children Under Age 18 (2011) - 12.2

• Juveniles committed to the Department of Correction (2011) - 994.

The information contained in the Kids Count data report makes it a must-read for anyone who cares about our children and the future they face.

It offers a broader understanding of the issues that affect the youngest and most vulnerable among us and the very future of the country.

It's food for thought that deserves consideration from state lawmakers -- whether they're wielding a budget ax or pondering the wisest use of a surplus.