in Oklahoma PDF
at a Glance Overview
& Findings Partners
for Child Advocacy, Inc. 420
N.W. 13th Street Suite
City 73103 Phone:
405-236-KIDS (5437) Fax:
405-236-KIDX (5439) www.oica.org
online information related to children at-risk
August 8, 2002
Contact: Anne Roberts
Executive Director Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy
2002 Oklahoma KIDS COUNT Factbook Focuses
on the Effects of Welfare Reform on Children
Have Oklahoma’s children benefited from the federal welfare
reform laws of 1996? The answer to this question is the focus of
the 2002 Oklahoma KIDS COUNT Factbook, released today by the Oklahoma
Institute for Child Advocacy. The book suggests mixed results for
children under welfare reform. Welfare caseloads have dropped and
child poverty has decreased overall in the state. However, many
families still do not earn enough to pay for their basic needs and
child poverty has actually increased in eighteen Oklahoma counties.
The Factbook is being released as Congress debates the reauthorization
of welfare reform. This debate includes components of reform like
funding for education and training, money for child care and state
flexibility in setting policy. The 2002 KIDS COUNT Factbook helps
frame the issues in light of the actual experiences of Oklahoma
children and families.
"An understanding of how children were impacted by welfare
reform is critical," explained Anne Roberts, Executive Director
of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy. "Congress is
making decisions right now regarding welfare reauthorization that
will affect the future of many of Oklahoma’s children and
their families. When considering this future, we must ensure that
the well-being of our state’s children is the top priority
for Oklahoma’s welfare policy."
The 2002 Factbook considers the results of national studies on the
impact of welfare reform on children and ties them to findings about
Oklahoma’s children. Reflecting on the findings in the focus
section of the Oklahoma KIDS COUNT Factbook, Ms. Roberts stated,
" What is becoming increasingly clear through research is something
that we have always known. The well-being of children is powerfully
tied to the well-being of their families. It is impossible to sever
the links between the two."
Welfare reform produced both positive and negative effects on the
families of Oklahoma children. Welfare caseloads have decreased
significantly, with many families moving from welfare into paid
employment. More than fifty thousand fewer children, and twenty-five
thousand fewer of their parents, than in 1996 are receiving welfare
cash assistance each month. In 2000, nearly sixty percent of families
leaving welfare found work within a year, compared with fifty percent
in 1997, the first year of reform.
Despite this progress, the overall picture for children and their
families is not wholly promising. Research shows that children do
better, not just when their parents are working, but when their
family income is higher than it was before the family left welfare.
This is not the case for many families in Oklahoma as they leave
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, far from what could be considered
sufficient anywhere in Oklahoma. The overall income for those leaving
welfare is significantly lower than for those staying.
This low income translates into a number of problems directly impacting
the children of Oklahoma. Nearly fifty percent of families who are
on, or who have left welfare, experience food insecurity or hunger.
Over forty percent of those families who leave welfare go without
health insurance. Nearly half are unable to pay rent. Almost seventy
percent are behind on utility bills. Close to fifty percent must
go without a phone.
"These findings point to the importance of providing the tools
families need to step onto the ladder of opportunity," declared
Anne Roberts. "Families want to move out of poverty and into
work for the longterm, but this requires providing work supports
like increased education and training, access to quality child care,
and health insurance. We must be careful that our welfare policies
do not to push families into low-paying, dead-end jobs just so we
can say that they are working. The future of Oklahoma’s economy
depends upon the quality of its workforce."
In addition to the statewide focus on the impacts of welfare reform
on children, the 2002 Oklahoma KIDS COUNT Factbook provides an updated,
county-by-county report on seven indicators of overall child well-being.
Statewide, two of these indicators worsened, and five showed improvement,
when compared to comparable data from the mid-1980s.
The rate of confirmed child abuse and/or neglect in Oklahoma has
nearly doubled what it was in the mid-1980s, growing from 9.0 children
per 1000 to the current rate of 17.8 confirmations per 1000 children.
This translates into nearly 16,000 confirmed cases of abuse and/or
neglect each year. The proportion of low birthweight babies also
grew over the most recent three-year period, with over 3,600 Oklahoma
babies being born too small (weighing less than 5 _ pounds) each
Statewide, the rate of child death showed the greatest improvement
compared to previous data. Currently, 13.3 fewer children die annually
than did during the 1980s. 58 of 77 counties showed a decline in
the number of babies born to young teens, girls under the age of
17. The proportion of youths arrested for violent crime continues
to show a dramatic decrease compared to the record highs of the
1990s. In addition, infant mortality and the number of teens dropping
out of high school also showed declines.
The 2002 Oklahoma KIDS COUNT Factbook includes county-by-county
data on indicators related to children and welfare reform as well
as county information on each of the seven indicators. The Factbook
is designed for use as a planning tool at both the county and state
levels. The Oklahoma KIDS COUNT Partnership is a project of the
Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy. For more information, or
to learn what you can do help, call 405/236-KIDS.