Oklahoma lags in child well-being ranks
BY MIKE AVERILL World Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
7/25/12 at 7:14 AM
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Despite slight improvement, Oklahoma remains near the bottom of the country for child well-being, according to a national report that ranks states using an index of 16 indicators in four categories.
Oklahoma ranked 40th overall, up from last year's 43rd spot, according to the 2012 Kids Count Data Book released annually by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The state ranked 44th two years before that.
Categorically, the state ranked 29th in economic well-being, 39th in education, 40th in family and community and 44th in health.
The state saw improvement in five of the 16 indexes. There was a 7 percent decrease in child and teen deaths, 6 percent decrease in children not attending preschool, 3 percent decrease in fourth-graders not proficient in reading and a 8 percent decrease in eighth-graders not proficient in math.
The biggest improvement was a 23 percent decrease in the number of children without health insurance. In 2010, 10 percent of children were uninsured compared to 13 percent in 2008.
"As child advocates, we're always excited when we see numbers get better in any area for Oklahoma's children, especially when it comes to access to health care and educational opportunities," said Linda Terrell, executive director of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy.
"But we also remain concerned about the number of children living in poverty and whose parents lack secure employment."
According to the report, the percentage of children in poverty increased 9 percent from 2005 to 2010 with 25 percent of children living in poverty.
"There's no doubt that economic distress is a critical factor in child well-being," said Desiree Doherty, executive director of the Parent Child Center. "Economic stress puts a lot of strain on any family unit, and we know that parental distress can really negatively affect the parent child relationship. And as the quality of the relationship declines, the risk for harm increases."
The report also showed a 100 percent increase in the percentage of children living in high-poverty areas, with 11 percent of children living in high-poverty areas from 2006 to 2010, up from 5 percent in 2000.
"One of the factors strongly related to a child's well being is where a child grows up," Doherty said. "A poor family that lives in a flourishing community, they may have low income but if the community has good schools and safe neighborhoods and positive adult caregivers and role models, that child can thrive. If they live in an area with high crime and poor schools, the child is more likely to get off track."
Amber England, policy director at the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, said that the numbers paint a really scary picture.
"I'm not surprised, but the 100 percent increase is shocking only because it's 100 percent," she said. "You'd expect maybe 30 or 40 percent. I think it's a direct tie to the economic recession."
England said the key to improving these statistics is for child advocate groups and businesses to work together to steer policy reform.
"Businesses have just as much at stake here as child advocates when it comes to ensuring these numbers continue to improve," England said. "Forging partnerships with economic development groups and the business community to make policy reforms that increase access to affordable health care and improve our education system gives children and families a ladder out of poverty and into the middle class."
Child well-being rankings
1. New Hampshire
4. New Jersey
6. North Dakota
43. South Carolina
49. New Mexico
Source: 2012 Kids Count Data Book
Original Print Headline: State lags in child status
Mike Averill 918-581-8489
Nacho Velez, 8, plays on playground equipment at the Westside YMCA on Tuesday. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World
Caitlyn Bradley, 9, hangs her head low while on playground equipment at the Westside YMCA on Tuesday. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World
Mason Wilson, 8, spins other children on the playground equipment at the Westside YMCA on Tuesday. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World