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Local & Regional

Oklahoma Nears the Bottom of Rankings for Kids' Well-Being

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Oklahoma children are facing an uphill climb.

The state ranks 44th for kids’ well-being in the latest Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT report.

Besides ranking 44th overall, Oklahoma is in the bottom 15 for every category considered: 36th for economic security, 40th in health, 44th in family and community, and 46th in health. Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy CEO Joe Dorman said the state was climbing, then took a nosedive.

"And a lot of this ties back into the investment in programs and the way that we treat the children under the care of the state with different services, and so we have to have that investment from the legislature if we want to see improvement and see better for kids," Dorman said.

Oklahoma has shown marginal improvement in nine of the 16 indicators, but other states have improved more — and faster.

"It didn’t help that we saw cuts in so many of the programs under the Department of Human Services, the Department of Health, the Office of Juvenile Affairs," Dorman said. "The budget cuts that we’ve experienced in recent years do take a toll on these numbers, and it takes awhile to recover from those."

Dorman said if he could focus efforts on one area, it would be measures of family and community, which includes an increase in children in families where the head of household didn’t graduate from high school.

"We’ve got to make sure that we focus on those areas and try and get better educational opportunities and better jobs to those individuals. Children in families where the household head lacks a high school diploma, we’ve got to provide better opportunities through our career techs," Dorman said.

The KIDS COUNT report says New Hampshire children are doing the best, while New Mexico children fare the worst.