Report Ranks OK Among Worst in Child Well-Being
Monday, June 19, 2023
Oklahoma ranks in the bottom five in a new report on child well-being.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation's annual Kids Count Data Book ranks the state 46th overall. The ranking is based on four indicators in 2021: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.
Carly Putnam - policy director for the Oklahoma Policy Institute - said state lawmakers have focused on ensuring Oklahoma has low taxes for businesses, but are failing to address another issue that impacts families: the high costs of child care.
"There's really a lot of factors that go into whether or not someone can actually work a job and raise a child somewhere," said Putnam. "And what those numbers show is that for all of our efforts to be a business-friendly state, we're actually maybe focusing on the wrong things."
Oklahoma families spend more than $8,300 a year on center-based child care.
The state's worst indicator is in education, scoring 49th. Its highest ranking is in health, at 37th.
Leslie Boissiere, vice president for external affairs at the Casey Foundation, said the U.S. needs a functional child care system.
"The country has never had a childcare system that is affordable and accessible to families, and also pays a family-sustaining wage to workers," said Boissiere. "And it's imperative that we invest in a childcare system that can work not only for kids and families, but also for our businesses and the economy."
Putnam said Oklahoma received its highest ranking in health because voters passed Medicaid expansion. She said this is proof the state can improve in other areas as well.
"We know that when we do put forward concentrated investments," said Putnam, "we can turn this around."
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