Oregon ranks 29th in the nation for child well-being according to new report

About 1.7 million more children live in low-income families today than during the Great Recession, according to the newly released 2015 KIDS COUNT Data Book from the Annie. E. Casey Foundation. The total number of children in low-income families across America is now 18.7 million, or around one out of every four children. Nearly a third of children are living in families where no parent has full-time employment. And even when parents are working full time, wages and benefits are often not sufficient to adequately support a family.

In Oregon, which the report ranks as 29th in the nation for overall child well-being, the data shows that families continue to struggle to get by and face narrowing opportunities for success in the future. Despite a slight improvement in child poverty since 2012, child poverty remains more than 20% higher than before the onset of the Great Recession. Moreover, Oregon families face some of the highest housing costs as a percentage of income and more than one-third of children lived in a family in which no parent had full-time, year-round employment. In addition to families’ economic hardship, Oregon students were less likely to attend preschool, read proficiently by the fourth grade, or graduate high school on-time than their peers in the majority of other states.

“Without a change in the trajectory of the economic lives of our families and the educational success of our students, Oregon’s prosperity is at risk,” said Tonia Hunt, executive director of Children First for Oregon. “This legislative session we’ve made significant strides in these areas by ensuring a fair shot for all workers and making significant investments in quality preschool for our lowest income students. However, the size of the gap between where we are and where we as a state want to be requires even more concerted efforts and further investments in the coming years.”

Oregon’s lagging rankings in the areas of economic security and education stand in contrast to the progress the state has made in the area of health insurance coverage. Since the expansion of Oregon’s Healthy Kids insurance program in 2009, the state has cut its rate of uninsured children nearly in half – the largest reduction in the country over that time period.

“When Oregon lawmakers act on behalf of kids, we can make significant progress,” said Hunt. “And when voters speak, lawmakers will act. We need to speak loud and clear so that every child has the opportunity to succeed.”

The 2015 Data Book is available at www.aecf.org.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation creates a brighter future for the nation’s children by developing solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity and transform struggling communities into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow. For more information, visit www.aecf.org. KIDS COUNT® is a registered trademark of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Children First for Oregon, founded in 1991, is a nonpartisan child advocacy organization, committed to improving the lives of Oregon’s vulnerable children and families. Its mission is to make long-term, systemic change by advocating for policies and programs that keep children healthy and safe, and strengthen families.

“More than 60 organizations join to push children’s policy agenda in Oregon Legislature”

By Amy Wang
The Oregonian
February 8, 2015

The lead agency in the movement is Children First for Oregon…

Tonia Hunt, executive director of Children First for Oregon, said Wednesday that the United for Kids movement and the 2015 Children’s Agenda are a natural pairing. “We know that it takes the engagement of Oregonians … to make sure that policy makers enact policies that improve the well-being of kids,” Hunt said.

The new movement has two initial strategies, Hunt said: Providing information to legislators, via the 2015 Children’s Agenda, “about what are the next best moves to make in terms of policy change,” and engaging the state’s voters, business organizations, faith communities and civic clubs with the question of “whether or not they believe kids should be a top priority in public policy decisions.”

Read the full story here and read the full 2015 Children’s Agenda here.

Oregon Foster Youth Connection members seek legislative support for foster care legislation

By Amy Wang
The Oregonian
February 3, 2015

Foster youth seek legislative support for extracurriculars, savings accounts

As the Oregon Legislature starts its 2015 regular session this week, the bills in front of lawmakers include several that focus on foster youth.

Two bills introduced in draft form Monday to the House Committee on Human Services and Housing would ensure that foster youth have access to at least one extracurricular activity and to savings accounts in their names once they reach the age of 12.

Read the full story here.

“Schools budget sharply criticized,” The Register-Guard

Schools budget sharply criticized
Three Eugene-Springfield school districts say the plan is short of what is needed

By Josephine Woolington
The Register-Guard
December 12, 2014

The nonprofit child advocacy organization Children First for Oregon, based in Portland, said Kitzhaber’s proposed budget is “insufficient to meet the state’s goals of increasing education levels and improving success rates” of children in the K-12 system. …

“While we applaud that investment, with a school year that is nearly three weeks shorter than the majority of states and one of the lowest high school graduation rates in the country, we cannot limit ourselves to investing in only one area of education and not others.”

Read the full story here.

If poverty were a city in Oregon…

By David Sarasohn
The Oregonian
July 23,2014

A bleak picture of child poverty in Oregon

If there were a town named Poverty, mused Tonia Hunt of Children First for Oregon, it would be the largest city in Oregon. …

“The paths out of Poverty are closing,” said Hunt in an interview. “The bridges out of Poverty are crumbling. It’s very hard to leave the home town of Poverty.”

Read the full story here.

Oregon Foster Youth Connection members help with hiring state’s first foster care Ombudsman

By Chris Thomas
Oregon News Service
February 4, 2014

Kids Help with Hiring of OR’s First Foster Care Ombudsman

SALEM, Ore. – Interviews are under way to select Oregon’s first ombudsman for youth in foster care – and who better to ask the tough questions than people with firsthand experience in the system? The Oregon Foster Youth Connection is a group of current and former foster children, ages 14 to 25, that spent the past few years convincing the legislature of the need for a clear Bill of Rights for foster children.

Listen to the full story here.