OREGON—Oregon families are struggling to meet the needs of children during the COVID-19 pandemic and manage finances, school, work, and mental health, according to Kids, Families and COVID-19: Pandemic Pain Points and the Urgent Need to Respond, a new policy report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. In normal times and in times of crisis, all children deserve to have their basic needs met and for families to have the support to meet the challenges they face. This report shows how children and families are suffering from the unprecedented disruption and economic storm set off by the COVID-19 crisis.

This KIDS COUNT report examined data from weekly surveys conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau that demonstrate how families across the country are challenged to meet basic needs during this global public health crisis while managing school, work and mental health. The Foundation finds that the concurrent health and economic crises are exacerbating trends that show vulnerable families are unable to fulfill basic needs.

“We know what it takes to have healthy thriving children and we know that COVID-19 has undermined many of those things for every child in our state. But the impact is not equally shared. Before COVID-19 many Oregon children struggled to access healthy food, safe and affordable housing, child care, and basic mental health services,” said Jenifer Wagley, executive director of Our Children Oregon, Oregon’s member of the KIDS COUNT network. “Now those struggles have intensified and the burden is being placed on families and children who were already under-resourced and disproportionately burdened by inequitable access. One step state leaders can take now is to extend the eviction moratorium in Oregon until the end of the school year to stabilize the living situations of families across the state.”

Key findings for Oregon show:

  • While 9% of respondents with children said they had lacked food security prior to the pandemic, 12% reported that in the most recent week there was sometimes or always not enough to eat in their household.
  • Just over one in eight respondents with children living in the household (13%) said they had only slight confidence or no confidence at all that they would be able to make their next rent or mortgage payment on time.
  • One in nine families with children (11%) lack health insurance. One-third of people with children in the household (33%) reported that they had delayed getting medical care in the previous month.
  • Nearly a quarter of respondents with children in their households (24%) reported that they had felt down, depressed, or hopeless in the previous week, indicating a widespread need for access to mental health care. While below the national average in the prior data points, Oregon exceeded the national average (21%) in the area of mental health.

Prior to the onset of the pandemic, outcomes for children and families were uneven across our state, and according to these data, adults in households with children in Oregon were struggling to afford food (9%). According to these data, more Black (45%) adults in households with children in Oregon were struggling to afford food, a striking gap in comparison to Latinos (10%), whites (8%), two or more races or another race (6%), and Asians (7%). This report shows how urgent state and federal intervention is to the health and well-being of families with children. The pandemic has laid bare where our systems and policies fail our children and families, and existing inequities for low-income families and communities of color have worsened. 

By measuring food security, the ability to make rent or mortgage payments, health insurance status, and mental health concerns, the Casey Foundation identified four pain points for children and families that require immediate action. Our Children Oregon encourages policymakers and advocates to ensure that children have what they need to survive and thrive by putting COVID-19 relief and recovery at the top of 2021 agendas with the following recommendations:

  • Put racial and ethnic equity first in policymaking.
  • Help families with children achieve financial stability and bolster their well-being.
  • Prioritize the physical and mental health of all children. 
  • Ensure schools are better funded, more equitable, and ready to meet the disparate needs of students at home and in the classroom.

“Leaders in our state have taken bold steps to try to address the disproportionalities we see in these data, but more must be done,” added Wagley. “This is a time for us as a state to radically reimagine our interlocking systems and build back not just better, but radically improve supports for families. Incremental change was not working before the pandemic and it is sure to fall short in the face of our growing crisis. The federal government needs to act swiftly to bolster state efforts.” 

Our Children Oregon and the Casey Foundation are committed to raising awareness and driving action in support of greater equity for children and families. Annually, Our Children Oregon convenes over 120 partners statewide to develop a comprehensive roadmap of policy solutions to meet the holistic needs of children, youth, and their families. The 7th annual Children’s Agenda will be released on January 19, 2021.

Our Children Oregon is part of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s network of KIDS COUNT state organizations.

About the Annie E. Casey Foundation

The Annie E. Casey Foundation creates a brighter future for the nation’s children by developing solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity, and transform struggling communities into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow. For more information, visit www.aecf.org.