For years, Oklahoma has struggled with issues including child poverty, DHS supervision, and teen pregnancy. While our state certainly has a lot going for it as far as early childhood education and other child welfare initiatives, we clearly have a lot of room for improvement as evidenced by the 2013 Kids Count report.
A project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the 2013 Kids Count Data Book evaluates each of the 50 United States according to 16 indicators in four categories: Economic Well-Being, Education, Health, and Family and Community. Specific indicators include:
- Children in poverty
- Children whose parents lack secure employment
- Children living in households with a high housing cost burden
- Teens not in school and not working
- Children not attending preschool
- Fourth graders not proficient in reading
- Eighth graders not proficient in math
- High school students not graduating on time
- Low birthweight babies
- Children without health insurance
- Child and teen deaths per 100,000
- Teens who abuse alcohol or drugs
- Children in single-parent families
- Children in families where the household head lacks a diploma
- Children living in high-poverty areas
- Teen births per 1,000
According to the 2013 report, the nation has enjoyed improvement in several areas, but worsened in the number of single parent families, children living in poverty and in high-poverty areas, and children whose parents do not have stable employment.
So which states were listed among the best states for kids according to the Kids Count data? Well, not Oklahoma.
The leading states were New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts. The worst were Nevada, Mississippi, and New Mexico. Oklahoma ranked in the bottom third–36th overall.
Oklahoma’s highest ranking was in Economic Well-Being, in which it ranked 25th–solidly in the middle of the pack. In the other three indicator categories, the state fared much worse:
- Education – 40
- Health – 43
- Family and Community – 39
The Kids Count Data Center reveals even more statistics about specific areas of child welfare, including the number of children in foster care, the number of children and teens arrested for juvenile crime, the number of children who are the subject of a DHS investigative report, and the number of children taken into DHS custody as a result of maltreatment, abuse, or neglect.
Oklahoma has a long way to go in getting near the top of the list as a great state for kids. Because the Oklahoma DHS system has come under scrutiny for failing to protect children, it may be overzealous in taking children from homes that are acceptable. If your child is taken from you in a DHS juvenile deprived case, contact a skillful attorney who can help you reunite your family in a suitable environment.