PHOENIX -- Dana Wolfe Naimark with Children's Action Alliance has made a career out of caring for Arizona kids. And it remains an uphill battle, according to this year's Kids Count study, which ranked our state 46th out of 50 on the scale of best and worst states for kids.
"It's not surprising, but it's always painful and shocking when you see your own state ranked in the bottom of the country," said Wolfe Naimark.
The study shows Arizona fell nine spots below last years ranking, showing that conditions for kids worsened in seven out of 16 categories, including the number of children living in poverty - roughly 24 percent. But local groups are seriously concerned about number of three and four-year-olds not in preschool at 68 percent.
"That's concerning because research shows us that the quality of children's early learning experiences directly corrolates to how well they do in school," said Liz Barker Alvarez with First Things First in Phoenix.
Advocates blame the recession, and say that's lead to less investment in child programs.
"State budget cuts, local budget cuts as well and thsoe have ripple effects. Those have consequences," said Wolfe Naimark.
There are some bright spots, including a decrease the number of teen births and the child death rate. Experts say economic turn around will help improve Arizona's numbers, but it's also up to families, communities and elected officials to do more.
"We should expect every single candidate how they will improve children's health. What will they do for children's education. And make kids front and center as we go forward and that's the way we will improve," said Wolfe Naimark.
The other states ranking below Arizona overall? Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada and New Mexico.