KIDS Count report shows one in three young children living in poverty in Oklahoma

Tuesday, July 24th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Nearly one-third of Oklahoma's children live in poverty and more than 15,000 are victims of abuse and neglect, a new report shows.

The Oklahoma Institute of Child Advocacy released the 2001 Oklahoma Kids Count Factbook on Monday.

The annual report, which chronicles living conditions and risk factors for Oklahoma's youth, showed that more than 50 percent of young children live in poverty in seven of the state's 77 counties. In 1999, the federal poverty line was $13,290 for a family of three, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty.

Statistics from the center show the number of children under 18 in poverty, fell from 258,884 to 155,453 from 1993 to 2000, a change of nearly 26 percent.

``These stubbornly high rates of child poverty should concern every American citizen as well as our federal and state governments,'' said Larry Aber, director of the poverty center. ``Poverty places a glass ceiling on children's readiness for school, educational achievement and future work force potential.''

The annual report also counted 15,518 children as victims of abuse and neglect in the state, which is almost double what it was in the mid-1980s.

A case of child abuse and neglect in Oklahoma is confirmed every 34 minutes, the report found. The problem is equally distributed across the state, with the 10 worst counties for abuse and neglect being Adair, Beckham, Blaine, Caddo, Garvin, LeFlore, McIntosh, Pottawatomie, Pushmataha and Woods, the report showed.

An average of 17.7 confirmed cases of abuse and neglect per 1,000 children have been reported across Oklahoma, the report found.

Marshall Tyner, who works with the Department of Human Services, attributed the sharp increases of abuse and neglect to substance abuse by parents.

``Many substance abusers have been shown to have been victims of abuse as a child, then when they grow up . . . the abuse continues,'' said Tyner, who is program manager of DHS' Laura Dester Shelter.

According to the report, at least one out of every five 2-year-olds has not received immunizations needed to prevent illness, disease and other medical problems. Nearly 8,000 babies were born to teen-age mothers, which the report said puts babies in higher risk for lifelong developmental and health problems, poverty, neglect and poor school performance.

``School readiness is not child's play,'' said Anne Roberts, executive director of the Oklahoma Institute for child advocacy. ``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.''

There were improvements, including the child death rate, which dropped from 41.4 per 100,000 children to 31.3. The high school dropout rate saw the smallest improvement, with the rate dropping from 5.5 percent to 5.4 percent, or 9,289 per year.

Other findings included:

_ Infant mortality decreased from 10.5 to 8.1 per 1,000 births, or 389 per year.

_ Teen-age pregnancy rates improved 18.2 percent, falling from 43.9 per 1,000 girls to 35.9, or 2,760 births annually.

_ Juvenile violent crime decreased by 18.8 percent, dropping from 334.1 per 100,000 youths age 10-17 to 271.4 per 100,000 youths.

The Oklahoma Kids Count Partnership is a project of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, a nonprofit lobbying organization.