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Children First for Oregon released today The Status of Oregon Children and Families: 2017 County Data Book, which finds that Oregon children are doing better in recent years according to a variety of measures.  Despite statewide gains, many counties have a long way to go to ensure all kids’ needs are met. 

“Outcomes for Oregon kids are significantly impacted by where they live,” said Children First for Oregon Executive Director Tonia Hunt. “While child poverty, food insecurity, and unemployment are showing signs of improvement statewide, these gains aren’t benefiting kids evenly across our counties.”

Rural counties in Oregon continue to face the largest barriers for kids. Overall, the biggest gains for children in the last year have disproportionately benefitted the five largest counties in the state.  Often kids in these counties – Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, Lane, and Marion – were already doing better than their peers in the state’s remaining 31 counties.  The 2017 County Data Book shows this trend is true for multiple measures of economic well-being, health outcomes, and educational achievement.

One area that continues to show strong progress for kids regardless of region or county size is access to health care coverage. In the last year, 33 of the state’s 36 counties saw a decline in the percentage of children without health insurance, according to the report.  An average of 3.6% of children in Oregon are uninsured, a decrease from 4.6% in the previous year. This progress, however, is at risk if Ballot Measure 101 fails when voters weigh in on the health care funding measure in January 2018. Measure 101 maintains funding for healthcare coverage and rural hospitals as approved in the state’s 2017 legislative session.  Without these dedicated funds and matching federal dollars, children and families in counties across the state will experience reduced coverage and less access to health care in their communities.

“The data show that we have made some important gains for kids but too many kids are still at a disadvantage due to the size of their community or their region in the state.  No matter where children live in Oregon, the one fundamental they can count on is health care,” Hunt emphasized. “This is why it’s so important to vote “yes” on Measure 101. We need to maintain health care access for rural and low-income families – not lose ground in a way that leaves even more children behind.”

Children First for Oregon publishes the County Data Book annually to educate decision-makers, giving them the information required to create strong children’s policies in Oregon. The report includes data on statewide trends and indicators by county for child health, child welfare, financial stability, early childhood education, youth development, education, and child poverty. To access the full report, click here.  This report is a product of the KIDS COUNT Oregon initiative at Children First for Oregon and is made possible by a generous grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.