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Copyright 2002

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)

More online information related to children at-risk


Facts at a Glance
A State Focus on the Welfare of Oklahoma Children After Welfare Reform

The effects of welfare reform on Oklahoma’s children:

1. Caseloads decreased.

• In State Fiscal Year 1996, before TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) was initiated, nearly one hundred eleven thousand (110,902) Oklahomans received welfare cash assistance every month. Today’s caseloads are only a third as large with more than fifty thousand (51,528) fewer children and twenty-five thousand (25,151) fewer of their parents receiving benefits each month.

2. More families have left TANF for paid employment.
•Around sixty percent (62.1% in FFY1999; 59.4% in FFY 2000) of Oklahoma families moving off TANF become employed within the year, up from about half (50.3%) the first year of reform (FFY 1997).

3. There has been a slight decrease in the overall state child poverty rate.
• In 1992, 21.7% of Oklahoma’s children lived in poverty. Today, only 19.1% are poor.
• However, in 18 Oklahoma counties, the child poverty rate has increased.

4. There has been a decrease in the rate of births to young teens (ages 15-17).
• Compared to the mid-1980’s when there were 43.9 births per every 1000 young teens, the most recent three years on record (1998-2000) show 33.0 births per 1000 young teens.

5. The rate and number of married couples raising children decreased over the last decade.
• There are 76 divorce petitions granted for every 100 marriage licenses issued in Oklahoma.

6. The rate and number of babies born to single mothers has increased.
• By 2000, one-third (34.3%) of all Oklahoma births were to women who were not married. Today, fewer Oklahoma children (down 9,403) are raised by married couples and more (up 28,505) live in single parent households than did ten years ago.

7. The income for families leaving welfare is lower than that of those staying on welfare.
• According to the recently published Self-Sufficiency Standard for Oklahoma, depending on the size of a family and where it lives, a wage sufficient to cover basic expenses in Oklahoma starts at $10.08 an hour. After leaving welfare, an Oklahoma head of a household earns an average of $7.79 per hour.

8. Families who are on, or who have recently left, TANF experience food insecurity or hunger at a rate of nearly 50 percent.

9. Over 40 percent of those families who leave welfare are completely uninsured, though eligible for Medicaid.

10. Many families who leave welfare are unable to pay for the necessities of daily life.

• Nearly half are unable to pay rent.
• Almost 70 percent are behind on utility bills.
• Almost half go without a phone.

11. According to national studies, the adolescent children of families receiving TANF exhibit more negative behaviors than prior to their parents going to work.
•Adolescents with mothers moving from welfare to work experience difficulties from increased smoking and drinking to being arrested, to performing poorly in school.


Welfare policies which could increase the positive outcomes for children:

1. Increase the collection of child support and pass this money directly to families.
• Good child support enforcement is an effective way to increase income for low income families.
•Research also shows that child support usually tanslates into increased parental involvement.

2. Make the requirements more flexible for older relatives who agree to raise grandchildren on TANF.
•Oklahoma has large numbers of grandparents (62,219) who have accepted the responsibility of caring for one or more of their grandchildren. About one-fourth (24.7%) of these grandparent-headed families live in poverty.
• The job search, training and employment requirements required for TANF recipients can be a hindrance for poor grandparents willing to take in their grandchildren.

3. Allow the mothers of infants to stay home for the full federally allowed time period.
• Oklahoma is one of eighteen states which does not exempt parents with children under the age of one year from work requirements.
• In Oklahoma, every TANF mother of an infant over the age of three-months must leave home for work, further increasing the demand for infant child care.

4. Improve the access to and the quality of child care.
• Because mothers are required to work, Oklahoma’s youngest poor children will spend a large amount of time in child care. An increasing number of working mothers will have to depend on child care providers to help their children become ready for school, learn to get along with others, be creative and feel good about themselves.
• Oklahoma DHS has created an innovative three-star rating system to increase the quality of child care. During April 2002, about one-third (33.1%) of the nearly fifty thousand (48,177) children receiving child care subsidies participated in Two- and Three-Star child care programs.

5. Invest in teen pregnancy prevention.
• A mother under age twenty is more likely than a woman who delays childbearing to drop out of school, be less skilled, have unsteady emplyment and be poor.
• While teen pregnancy has slowed in the state, Oklahoma still has one of the highest rates of young teen childbearing in the nation.

6. Increase access to job training and education.

For more information, contact Anne Roberts, Executive Director, at 405/236-5437 or