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

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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.

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What’s new at Children First for Oregon?

By Tonia Hunt

The answer is: a lot. The last few months at Children First have been a whirlwind.

In February, we launched United for Kids and unveiled the 2015 Children’s Agenda – which compiles the best thinking of 65 pro-child advocacy organizations and coalitions and makes clear to legislators what Oregon’s children need.

As the convener and coordinator of United for Kids, Children First is bringing together a diverse group of voters, child and family advocates, businesses, labor groups, funders, faith communities, and elected leaders to speak with a unified voice for kids.  I urge you to join United for Kids today and add your name to the nearly 5,000 Oregonians who have already signed up to make kids a top public policy priority!

Since the start of the legislative session the Children First staff team has been in Salem every day to support the Children’s Agenda participants and help advance policy items that make kids’ lives better. We have been privileged to work with great advocacy peers to expand access to free school lunch for children from low-income families, health care for all children in Oregon, gun safety to protect children, affordable child care for working families, and adequate school funding – among other issues.  Whether meeting with legislators, offering testimony and floor letters, providing policy and data research, or coordinating behind the scenes with advocacy partners, Children First has been working hard to speak for Oregon’s 860,000 children.

A lot of work remains to make Oregon the best place to be a kid. We can only make that change if you help us. Start today by joining United for Kids, reading our blogs, making a gift, and visiting us on social media. And stay tuned for what we have in store next!