are over half a million (529,773) Oklahomans over age 14 and under
age 25. This decade in a young person’s life can be the
best. Becoming an adult is exciting. It is a time of change. Dreams
become reality. Dependency turns into responsibility. Anxiety
is transformed into confidence. Most Oklahoma youth successfully
navigate their road to independence — graduating, finding
employment, beginning careers and families. These youth benefit
from the solid support and guidance of family, friends and communities.
Their education and experience provide the foundation upon which
they build their future and Oklahoma’s future.
There are other young people in Oklahoma who, through little fault
of their own, face their futures with fear and frustration. Too
many of these young Oklahomans live in poverty. Some are neither
in school nor employed. Many live out their teenage years away
from their own family. Some become parents themselves, too young,
too soon. Others spiral into misuse of alcohol and drugs, mired
in addiction or in trouble with the law or both. Some die.
Their problems are serious. It should be no mystery these youth
have difficulties. They have been seriously harmed and have rarely
been given a chance for success. Emerging solutions are encouraging.
Key is supporting the individual assets of each young person.
Here family matters much. School and community become vital. Programs
which develop youth assets, combined with those that reduce risk-taking
behaviors, offer the promise that Oklahoma’s youth will
successfully grow to be productive adults.
Oklahoma KIDS COUNT Partnership, a project of the Oklahoma Institute
for Child Advocacy (OICA), uses key strategies to achieve its
goal. First, KIDS COUNT “counts kids,” providing accurate
and up-to-date data on the status of Oklahoma’s children
and youth. Second, KIDS COUNT cultivates leadership on behalf
of children and youth, giving voice to their needs at the local
level. Third, KIDS COUNT communicates the needs of children and
youth, using extensive public awareness activities.
Oklahoma KIDS COUNT Factbook uses benchmarks to profile the status
of children and youth in our state. Benchmarks are quantifiable
measures that, when taken together, help determine child, family
and community well-being. From an established baseline, this ninth
Oklahoma KIDS COUNT Factbook tracks progress, or the lack of progress,
over time for low birthweight infants, infant mortality, births
to young teens, child abuse & neglect, child death, and juvenile
violent crime arrests. Changes in state data collection methods
currently prevent comparisons over time for high school dropouts.
There is good news. The 2004 Oklahoma KIDS COUNT Factbook documents
that four benchmarks improved over the comparable data from the
middle of the 1980’s.
is bad news. Two of the seven benchmarks tracked worsened when
compared to data from the middle of the 1980’s.
improved rates obscure the challenges faced by large numbers of
young Oklahomans each year. One in every five (19.6%) Oklahoma
children lives in poverty. Each year, more than thirteen thousand
(13,253) children are abused or neglected and sixty-five hundred
(6,528) youth quit high school. Each year, more than twenty-three
hundred (2,343) girls ages 15 through 17 become mothers and almost
four hundred (394) babies do not live to see their first birthday.
Each year, one thousand (1,001) children and youth are arrested
for murder, rape, aggravated assault or robbery.
information, along with graphics, is available for download
in pdf format.