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Not All ND Children Have Equal Opportunity to Thrive

PHOTO: A new scorecard on the progress of children in North Dakota shows the need to create more opportunity for kids of color, especially Native Americans. Photo credit: Lindsey Gira.
PHOTO: A new scorecard on the progress of children in North Dakota shows the need to create more opportunity for kids of color, especially Native Americans. Photo credit: Lindsey Gira.
April 1, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. - The number of children of color in North Dakota remains relatively small, but it is growing, and a new report shows that more must be done to put them in a position to thrive. The analysis highlights serious concerns faced by African American, Latino and Native American children and the effect their success or failure will have on the state's economic future, according to Karen Olson, program director, North Dakota Kids Count.

"Regardless of racial background or socioeconomic position, everyone is connected as a society," Olson said, "and all children in North Dakota are key contributors to our nation's future. Providing them with opportunities to succeed is essential for a healthy state."

In all, the report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation examined a dozen indicators of key childhood milestones in the areas of development, education and health.

Among the greatest concerns for North Dakota, Olson said, are barriers faced by Native American children, who account for 14 percent of all kids in the state.

"The recommendations out of this report are to encourage community leaders, decision makers, businesses, philanthropists, nonprofits to transform these challenges into opportunities and build on ideas, programs and practices that we know are showing success," Olson said.

One of those successful North Dakota programs is Sources of Strength. Director Mark LoMurray said the program uses peer leaders to help reduce suicide, but the positive results have spread into other areas, such as school attendance and academic achievement.

"Rather than going around saying 'Don't do this, don't do that,' a lot of our young people are spreading peer-to-peer messages about 'Hey, what are things that are really going to help you move forward and make it through tough times and achieve your goals and help you stay strong as you're moving forward?'"

The Census Bureau predicts that by 2018, children of color will represent a majority of children in the U.S. By 2030, a majority of the American labor force will be people of color.

The full report, "Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children," is available at www.aecf.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - ND