Listen to this article here

Oklahoma’s kids are facing hardships, with recent national rankings putting Oklahoma at 42nd in the country for caring for our young people. Across 16 categories, Oklahoma’s youth rank consistently low in such measures as education, family life, and health. 

The Annie E. Casey Foundation, based in Baltimore, is dedicated to supporting children’s well-being, and determines yearly rankings for each state. While Oklahoma has improved from the last year results were released, research shows that Oklahoma’s young people are still not receiving the best care possible — ironic for a state that Governor Stitt labels as “pro-life.” 

This week, The Oklahoma Policy Institute released information on Oklahoma’s kids following the Annie E. Casey Foundation results, noting that the data came from 2019, and didn’t even include information on the effects of COVID-19 on Oklahoma’s youth. 

Oklahoma nowhere near being a “top 10 state”

Education is a particular low point for Oklahoma’s young people. The state continues to struggle supporting students, with 75% of fourth graders scoring below proficiency in reading, while 75% of eighth graders are not proficient in math. The state has dropped 13 spots in young people who do not graduate high school within 4 years.

Pregnancy among teenagers is another glaring issue for Oklahoma’s youth. Oklahoma consistently ranks among the states with the highest teen birth rate in the nation. The teen birth rate actually increased by 1% from 2018 to 2019, the most recent year included in the data. 

However, in response to the high teen birth rate, schools and community-wide programs have created programs that support teens in their sexual and reproductive health. In fact, the health news is not all bad, with Oklahoma finally making some positive changes. While the state currently has over 85,000 children without health insurance, the recent Medicaid expansion should help provide all Oklahoma  families with greater access to health care. 

In fact, Oklahoma can make progress across all areas in supporting our youth and families, through policies that address and mitigate Oklahoma’s care disparities for our young people. There are currently several pending bills that address child care, child protection policies, and health care. Oklahoma can take action in order to support and promote our future generations. 

Erika Stone is a graduate student in the Master of Social Work program at the University of Oklahoma, and a graduate assistant at Schusterman Library. A Chess Memorial Scholar, she has a B.A. in Psychology...