Press Release

EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE UNTIL 10:30 AM CST Monday, July 23, 2001


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Contact: Jane Myles
Communications Coordinator
Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy

405/236-5437 ext. 119
405/990-4521 cell

NOTE to the EDITOR/Assignment Editor/News Director: The following information is embargoed until 10:30 AM CST on July 23rd. You are welcome to access the 2001 Oklahoma KIDS COUNT Factbook and this press release on the web to gain additional background, charts and statistical information specific to the Factbook.

On Monday, July 23, there will be press events held in Oklahoma City (10:00 am) and in Tulsa (1:00 pm). Information will be sent to media outlets the week of July 16.


Oklahoma Suffers from New Brain Drain:
School Readiness is Not Child’s Play

The types of experiences a child has in the first years of life have a decisive impact on the development of his brain and the nature and extent of his adult capabilities. Young children who are well cared for can reap large rewards. Children who are exposed to poverty, violence, drugs, or who are abused or neglected early in life can pay a high price.

"Typically, you hear the term ‘brain drain’ describing the loss of Oklahoma college graduates to jobs in other states," explains Anne Roberts, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA), "however, research on the development of the human brain tells us that ‘brain drain’ is a loss that happens in Oklahoma much earlier than college age. It happens when we fail to give babies, toddlers and preschoolers high quality care at home and in child care settings, more than adequate protection from harm, and the healthiest possible start in life."

Key early childhood well-being indicators reported in the 2001Oklahoma KIDS COUNT Factbook, released today by OICA, indicate problems for Oklahoma infants, toddlers and preschool children.

A startling fact unveiled by Oklahoma KIDS COUNT is that nearly one in three of Oklahoma’s children under age five live in poverty. In seven counties, nearly half of the young children are impoverished. The Factbook reports that at least one of every five of Oklahoma’s two-year-olds have not received the immunizations necessary to prevent illness, disease, and medical problems. In 1998, nearly 8,000 babies were born to Oklahoma girls who were still in their teens — putting them at greater risk for lifelong developmental and health problems, poor school performance, poverty, abuse and neglect, and teenage child bearing themselves. In recent years, forty percent of Oklahoma’s child abuse and neglect victims were under six years of age and forty-five percent of all child deaths involved children not yet six years of age.

"School readiness is not child’s play," explains Roberts. "There are serious implications for the future and long term prosperity of our state, if Oklahoma fails to address these issues effectively, ensuring that children are healthy, eager to learn and ready to succeed by the time they begin school."

The Oklahoma KIDS COUNT Factbook tracks county-by-county trend data on seven key indicators of child well being. This year’s edition features "A State Focus on Early Childhood Care and Education," which includes a county ranking on an early childhood index. The Factbook is designed for use as a planning tool for future success at both the community and state levels.

The Oklahoma KIDS COUNT Partnership is a project of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy. To view the 2001 Oklahoma KIDS COUNT Factbook on-line, go to The Factbook is also available at your public library. For more information or to learn what you can do to help, call 405/236-KIDS.


The Seven Key Indicators:

Low Birthweight Infants — Each year nearly thirty-five hundred Oklahoma babies are born too small; an increasing number (586 average annual) are born very, very tiny at less than 3 pounds, 5 ounces. Low birthweight is largely preventable with adequate prenatal care.

Infant Mortality — Each year nearly four hundred babies born in Oklahoma (389 average annual) do not live to see their first birthday. Infant death typically results directly from inadequate early care. Causes of death include poverty, inadequate living conditions, abuse, neglect, preventable injuries, accidents and infections.

Births to Young Teens — On the average, every three hours an Oklahoma girl (age 17 or younger) becomes a mother before she has completed high school. Poor literacy skills, lack of academic achievement, family dysfunction, and poverty are predictors of early childbearing. Children born to teen mothers are more likely to become teen parents, to have lifelong health problems, and to drop out of school.

Child Abuse and Neglect — Oklahoma maintains record high rates of child abuse and neglect with more than fifteen thousand (15,518) confirmed cases of abuse and/or neglect each year. Children of teen mothers are more than twice as likely to be victims of child abuse and neglect than children born to mothers age twenty or older.

Child and Teen Death — Every week, about nine Oklahoma children and youth from the ages of 1 through 19. Young, poor and minority children are less likely to receive lifesaving preventive services. Poor children are three times as likely to die during their childhood than non-poor children.

High School Dropouts — In Oklahoma, an annual average of more than eleven thousand young residents quit school without graduating. Preventing youth from dropping out of middle or high school begins before kindergarten. Poor literacy skills can push young people out of school. There is a relationship between how much a child has been read to and how well they learn to read. Only half of infants and toddlers are routinely read to by their parents.

Juvenile Violent Crime Arrests — From 1997 to 1999, more than a thousand (1,089) Oklahoma youths from the ages of 10 through 17 were arrested each year for committing violent crimes. A national survey indicates that nine out of ten police chiefs say crime would be greatly reduced by expanding educational child care programs and after-school programs. Failure to invest now will result in paying far more later in crime, welfare and other costs.





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Copyright 2001

Oklahoma Institute for
Child Advocacy, Inc.
420 N.W. 13th Street
Suite 101
Oklahoma City 73103
Phone: 405-236-KIDS (5437)
Fax: 405-236-KIDX (5439)

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