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. The department has programs that relate to dropout prevention by involving the community in the educational system and offering extra assistance for students in poverty. Because of the state’s economic situation, most districts qualify for federal Title I money, Koss said. Districts use those funds for math and reading programs. Sally Cole, regional executive director for alternative education in the Oklahoma City School District, said the district has made changes to its alternative program in the last year to further address challenges such as poverty and teen pregnancy. "We have to look at each situation and give them the support they need to stay in school,” Cole said. "We’ve got to offer the chance to change.” The district has new alternative schools within the middle schools and will start a program with the Department of Human Services in August to provide extra support to students in foster care. The district also has a program for teenage mothers. The teen birth rate remained high in Oklahoma, with 60 births per 1,000 females ages 15 to 19 years old, the fifth-highest in the nation, according to the Kids Count report. Lack of information is to blame, said Linsey Garlington, teen pregnancy prevention consultant for the state Health Department. She said Oklahoma requires no health education in public schools, so many teens lack knowledge about sexuality and reproduction. Nationally, teen birth rates have risen as the economy weakened, she said, meaning more teens may be forgoing contraception. The children of teen mothers can also face challenges, including low birth rate and more health complications. Such children are more likely to be incarcerated or become teen parents themselves, Garlington said.