SUSAN SIMPSON and DAWN MARKS Published: August 2, 2009
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Poverty undermines the well-being of Oklahoma children, contributing to higher teen birth rates, poorer health and school dropout rates, child advocacy officials said.

The recently released Kids Count data book shows that the percentage of poor children in Oklahoma increased from 19 percent in 2000 to 22 percent in 2007.

"Poverty is the one risk factor that exacerbates all the rest, so that if you are sick, being poor also makes it unlikely that you will see a doctor, or if you are not doing well in school, being poor also makes it unlikely that you can afford a tutor,” said Anne Roberts, executive director of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy.

Oklahoma ranks 44th among states in the study of the well-being of America’s children. That’s down from 38th in 2005.

The study considered a family of two adults and two children as poor if the household income was below $21,027. In many Oklahoma families, neither parent was working full-time, year-round, the report showed.

"We are simply not doing what we need to do for our children and families,” Roberts said. "While we are doing well in a couple of areas, such as childhood immunizations and our rates of child abuse, other states are doing much more and much better than we are.”

The percentage of high school dropouts improved from 14 percent in 2000 to 8 percent in 2006. The percentage of teens not attending school or working decreased from 11 percent in 2000 to 9 percent in 2006. Both categories remained the same between 2006 and 2007.

Many factors in the study affect education, said Cindy Koss, assistant state superintendent of standards and curriculum for the state Education Department.

"It really is all part of it. It really is education of the whole child. All of those factors play a role in whether the child is ready to learn,” Koss said. View the report, a variety of data sets and compare the...



2009 Kids Count Oklahoma

Falling: Worsening indicators since 2000 and Oklahoma’s ranking among 50 states:

→Low-birthrate babies (25)

→Child death rate (45)

→Teen death rate (40)

→Children living in families where no parent has full-time employment (38)

→Children in poverty (41)

→Children in single-parent families (31)

Improving: Indicators that have improved since 2000 and Oklahoma’s ranking among 50 states

→Infant mortality rate (40)

→High school dropouts (36)

→Teens not attending school and not working (31)

In addition, Oklahoma’s teen birth rate has not changed statistically, but remains high, ranking Oklahoma 43rd among states.

Source: Kids Count, Annie E. Casey Foundation

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