August Editorial Winner

State ranking in child well being not acceptable

Kim Benedict, The Ardmoreite

Most of us know that life is a work in progress.
We leverage our strengths, identify and work to improve our weaknesses.
And, for the most part, have control over what we do.
However, one of our most vulnerable populations is our children, and they have little to no control over their life circumstances.
So how sad is it that our state, once again, ranks in the bottom 10 nationally in child well being? We are number 43, out of 50 states, in the 2011 Kids Count Data book released annually. We moved up one spot, from 44th, in 2010.
And that's just not good enough. We improved in one indicator and worsened in six.
Our lowest rankings were in child death (47th), in teen birthrate (46th) and infant mortality (45th).
One of the largest increases was a 16 percent gain in the number of children living in poverty. Oklahoma ranks 35th in the category with 22 percent of children living in poverty (income below $21,756 for a family of two adults and two children).
We are the state of Oklahoma and we control the well being of our children. And, we're not doing a good job.
Absolutely there are great parents out there and thousands of children who are thriving and poised for success. But there's a like number who don't know how, or have the means, to climb out of situations that are uncaring at best, abusive at worst.
We improved by one ranking year over year. That's progress, but do today's children really have a decade for our state to crawl out of the bottom of the rankings?
We don't think so. We encourage state and family service agencies, along with parents, grandparents, educators and other concerned citizens to coordinate efforts, pick a category and make it their mission to move the number in a significant way.
Let's show the states in the bottom ten, starting with Mississippi at 50, then Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, New Mexico, South Carolina, West Virginia, Georgia and Kentucky that Oklahoma is the new model for moving the dial in caring for our children in a positive way.
There's no time to waste.

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