Oklahoma ranks 42nd for child well-being in Kids Count 2021 report


Oklahoma ranks among the top 10 states in the country for child welfare, according to a new annual report released last week.

The state moved up three places from the previous year’s ranking, dropping from 45th to 42nd, according to the new Kids Count report, which is produced by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and rates states in four categories: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.

In those four categories, Oklahoma ranked first – 33rd – in economic well-being, the same place it landed for the 2020 report. The state ranked 41st in family and community, down one place compared to the previous year; 45th in education, up three places compared to 2020; and 42nd in health, an increase of seven spots from last year’s report.

Here are some of the main findings of the report:

  • 1 in 5 Oklahoma children – 186,000 – lived in households with incomes below the poverty line. Compared to the state average of 20%, an even higher proportion of black and Latino children live in poverty – 38% and 27%, respectively – compared to 14% of non-Hispanic white children.
  • About 86,000 children, about 9%, in Oklahoma do not have health insurance.
  • 95,000 Oklahoma children live in very poor areas.
  • And many Oklahoma children fall behind in school: 71% of fourth-graders are not proficient in reading, and 74% of eighth-graders are not proficient in math.

Where is Oklahoma

The report shows improvements in measures of child well-being in Oklahoma, said Gabrielle Jacobi, child welfare analyst at the Oklahoma Policy Institute. But other states are improving too, at faster rates.

“Our improvements are just not enough to compete,” she said. “So our ranking continues to drop and we continue to be in the bottom 10 for child welfare. “

The well-being of the state’s children is crucial, as today’s underserved eighth graders will be legal adults in just five years, Jacobi said.

“We expect them to be members of the workforce, parents, volunteers, community leaders,” she said. “If we really want a better future for all of us, we need to start focusing on policies and budget priorities that can ensure a better outcome for children now so they can reach their full potential. “

Jacobi said Oklahoma could do so by expanding paid family and medical leave, raising the minimum wage, and expanding the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit.

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“These are evidence-based anti-poverty solutions that work and provide families with more money than they can spend on rent, utilities, transportation, groceries, medical care, all those other necessities. “she said. “By providing that little extra support, it can stabilize households, reduce stress and ultimately trigger reductions in child poverty.”

Public Schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said she was proud to see improvements over the years in academic performance categories, but the larger view shows “the real struggles and setbacks where the world outside the hall classroom has an impact on progress inside classrooms.

“Oklahoma has made significant investments in education but cannot be satisfied until we are regionally competitive with these investments at a minimum,” she said in a statement. “Imagine what we could do with this kind of sustained support for students and their education. “

Joyce Marshall, director of the maternal and child health service in the state health department, highlighted areas for improvement shown in the report, including the state’s teenage birth rates, which have passed. from 50 per 1,000 births to 27 per 1,000 births in nearly a decade. .

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“This is another area of ​​Oklahoma where several agencies, programs and professionals are teaming up to improve access to health services, evidence-based sexual health education and information. medically accurate to reduce risk and promote positive youth development, “Marshall said in a statement.

The percentage of low birth weight babies also declined, from 8.4% in 2010 to 8.2% in 2019.

But there is room for improvement in all measures, Marshall said.

“8.2% of low birth weight infants is 8.2% too many infants,” Marshall said, adding that the same is true for other health measures, including rates of uninsured children, infant mortality rates and childhood obesity rates.

Scope of the report

The rankings are based on data from 2019, so they do not capture the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

This means that “unfortunately some of our metrics could look even worse next year, especially for economic well-being,” said Jacobi, of the Oklahoma Policy Institute. The nonprofit is Oklahoma’s host agency for the report, which means it helps provide the data used in the ranking.

One area where future reports may show improvement, however, is the number of uninsured children. Given that voters chose to extend the state’s Medicaid program to low-income adults last year, allowing those eligible under the new guidelines to have coverage as early as July 1, it is likely that more children will also end up with health coverage, Jacobi said.

“As previously uninsured adults begin to enroll in health care through expansion, they will be more likely to enroll their own children in public health care programs such as Medicaid or CHIP,” he said. she declared.

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