A child's well-being, and their likelihood of success years from now, appears to change drastically from county to county in New Jersey. The proof is in thousands of statistics released Monday by a Newark-based nonprofit.

New Jersey Kids Count, the signature publication from Advocates for Children of New Jersey, looked at several key indicators to determine how kids are faring across the state. Each county was ranked among the rest in four major categories: child and family economics, child health, safety and well-being, and education.

The counties of Cape May, Camden, Cumberland and Passaic ranked out of the top 10 in all four categories.

Morris County performed the best overall, landing in the top 5 across the board. The county's percentage of children under 18 without health insurance — 1.9 percent — was well below the state average. And only 5 percent of K-12 students were considered chronically absent (missing at least 10 percent of school days) in the 2014-2015 school year, compared to 10 percent statewide.

Kids in Somerset County posted well-above-average test scores and a chronic absenteeism rate of 5 percent, but the county saw a spike in infant deaths from 2011 to 2015, and performed below average for the percentage of young children tested for lead.

Low rates of child abuse or neglect cases helped Ocean and Somerset counties top the safety and well-being category. Those counties also had lower rates of juvenile arrests and idle youth.

Dramatic declines in all 21 counties were registered in the area of juvenile arrests from 2011 to 2015. Gloucester County led the way with a drop of approximately 60 percent.

The state as a whole experienced a significant drop in the number of children under 18 without health insurance. Six counties — Cape May, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Middlesex and Union — posted rates above the state average of 3.7 percent.

Cecilia Zalkind, ACNJ president, said the annual report is more important this year than years past, given the 2017 gubernatorial election and legislative races.

"I would hope that this data provides a road map for the leadership that will come forward next year after the elections," she said.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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