PORTLAND, OREGON—Now is the time for our legislators, county leaders, and other public officials to commit to continued and new strategic investments for children, their families, and our communities. Our Children Oregon, a statewide advocacy organization for children and youth, released the 28th annual Oregon KIDS COUNT County Data Cards featuring state and county-level data reflecting the impact of investments and policies prioritized in response to the Great Recession. It took many years for our children and their families to experience those investments and policies in their daily lives, pointing to the importance of using these data now to inform current decision-making that will be felt in the years and generations to come.
We continue to be in a global pandemic, a time that has turned the lives of so many children and families upside down, and which has disproportionately affected communities of color. Pre-pandemic data state-level indicators show that children and youth were seeing improvement across many areas.
- In 2019, the percentage of Oregon children living in poverty was 13.6%, down from 15.7% in 2018 and a marked decline from 21.3% in 2014.
- Likewise, the percentage of Oregon children without health insurance dropped from 3.6% (2017) to 3.4% (2018), with 2,640 more children gaining coverage.
However, the state-level lens alone only shows part of the whole picture. When we consider many indicators with available race/ethnicity data, the outcomes lay bare where our investments and resources have more ground to cover to address long-standing system inequities:
- The percentage of K-12 students in Oregon 2019-20 that were lacking stable housing has returned to 2014-15 levels of 3.6%. Most recent data show that Pacific Islander (8.0%), Black or African American (7.7%), and American Indian/Alaska Native (6.8%) students were disproportionately represented.
- In 2019, 10,081 children were in Oregon’s foster care system, down from 11,238 children in 2015 (a difference of 1,157 children). Within foster care in 2019, children who identified as Black or African American (5.7%) or American Indian/Alaska Native (4.5%) were overrepresented.
“We as a state are in a historical moment that demands bold action,” said Jenifer Wagley, executive director of Our Children Oregon. “As state budget deliberations advance, we call on the Oregon legislature to center the future of Oregon’s children by investing now. The data presented today show that while we were headed in the right direction, there is still much we have to do. Now is the moment to listen to Oregon families and invest in building a brighter future for our children and communities.”
Oregonians have the opportunity to lead with our values and work towards addressing systemic inequities through targeted and strategic investments. The items on the 2021 Children’s Agenda prioritize our children and their potential; among the items the 2021-23 Oregon budget should invest dollars into are:
- Equitable expansion of Oregon’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to help families afford the basics
Support HB 2819 and ensure all income-eligible individuals can access Oregon’s Earned Income Tax Credit, including those using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to file their taxes. This bill will strengthen the economic stability of workers by raising their take-home pay, helping their families pay for essentials.
- Expanding access to high-quality, culturally sustaining early learning programs through the Head Start and Oregon PreKindergarten program, Preschool Promise, and Equity Fund
Support the budget asks to expand and increase access to early learning opportunities that meet families’ cultural and linguistic needs for Black and Indigenous children and children of color in Oregon. This historic investment is essential to support Oregon’s workforce and economic activity.
- Establishing the Cover All People program
Support HB 3352 to expand coverage for youth that are aging out of the Cover All Kids program, individuals with DACA status, and others not currently eligible for coverage because of immigration status.
- Eliminating implicit bias in child welfare responses
Support HB 2505 that will create a Child Welfare Equity Committee of the existing Governor’s Child Foster Care Advisory Commission to advise the commission, Oregon Department of Human Services, and the Oregon Health Authority on providing equitable child welfare services.
“We know this snapshot of child well-being across the state will continue to shift. How it shifts, however, is up to us,” said Chris Coughlin, Policy, Advocacy and Engagement Director at Our Children Oregon. “By spending now, our state can not only resource targeted efforts to address system inequities but can also commit to investments that tip the scales towards an Oregon where all children thrive.”
Our Children Oregon’s KIDS COUNT Data Cards are developed to inform conversations on the most pressing issues facing Oregon children and their families to unite voices in prioritizing children in policy and investment decisions.
The Data Cards this year are hosted on Tableau (an online, interactive platform), are mobile-friendly, and have the option to export to a PDF. The Data Cards feature 21 indicators organized across 4 domains: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community as well as data on population and family supports. State-level indicators are also disaggregated by race/ethnicity when possible, calling attention to disparities that exist among population groups.
Our Children Oregon is part of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s network of KIDS COUNT state organizations.