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This is Governor John Baldacci.

Maine does a good job of taking care of our children.

It’s easy to take for granted the safe environment our State provides for most kids.

People move to Maine to raise families and anyone who grew up here, like I did, knows firsthand all that the State has to offer.

During these difficult economic times, we do a good job of putting our children at the top of our priorities list.

Last week, the Annie Casey Foundation released its annual Kids Count Data Book, and the numbers show that Maine is a good place for children.

Out of 10 categories, Maine places in the Top 10 in four areas and overall our State is ranked 16th in the country for well-being of our children and teen-agers.

We rank second in terms of the number of idle teens and second in the nation for fewest high school dropouts. Our state is also 6th for fewest births to teenage mothers.

Teen-agers face challenges in every state. It’s a time when their minds and bodies aren’t always developing at the same rate, which can cause serious trouble.

We take good care of our teens.

We do a good job of taking care of expectant mothers, with the 10th lowest rate of premature infants, and we rank 12th for deaths among children 14 and younger.

Our State works hard to make sure our kids have the tools they need to be successful and the support they need to stay out of trouble.

But we also do a good job when they stray from the straight and narrow.

Maine’s juvenile justice system is recognized this year for the way we work to rehabilitate young offenders and keep them out of jail.

In an essay that accompanies the rankings, the Kids Count researchers found that most states have blurred the boundaries between adult and juveniles in the corrections systems.

In Maine, we have successfully continued to emphasize alternatives to prison for young offenders and instead focus on programs that provide community service, foster care and substance abuse treatment.

As a result, Maine’s recidivism rate for juveniles, which is going back to prison, is half of the national average.

So, we do a better job of keeping our kids out of prison and helping them to rebuild their lives in a positive way.

I am proud of the measures in which Maine performs well, but I also see places that we must improve.

Maine has too many children living in poverty and too many parents who lack full-time employment.

The slowing national economy has taken its toll on Maine, as it has on all the other states, and a lot of families are struggling. And when families struggle, kids struggle.

I’ve always said the best social service program is a good job and the best social service department is the family.

But I firmly believe the best thing we can do for our children and families is to protect the jobs we have and to make sure we are making the critical investments that will help the private sector create the good jobs of the future.

Right now in Millinocket, Maine, Katahdin Paper is facing a shutdown. The mill is reliant on oil and high prices have put the operation in jeopardy.

We are working everyday to find the best way to keep the mill open and to protect the more than 200 people who work there.

And as a state we are pursuing an aggressive energy policy that will reduce our dependence on costly foreign oil and help to protect our economy from these price crises.

If we want to create good-paying jobs with benefits, we also have to make critical investments in innovation, education and transportation.

And in the last two years, we have made major strides. Despite a difficult national economy, we have invested in K-12 education, our community college system was established and is flourishing, our universities have been bolstered and supported with research and development initiatives.

We are leading the nation in the number of jobs created from that private sector research and development spurred by the university initiatives.

Those efforts are going to pay dividends in the years to come, creating new jobs and new prosperity.

While we’ve done a good job of taking care of our children, there’s also room to improve and by keeping our eye on the future, we can make sure that our children have the opportunities for a quality education and a fulfilling career right here at home.

Thank you and have a great weekend.

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