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Save the Date: Our 2019 State Budget Summit is January 24, 2019. Tickets will go on sale Monday, December 10th. 

More work needed to count all Oklahoma kids in the 2020 Census

by | November 8th, 2018 | Posted in Children and Families | Comments (0)

At OK Policy, we often use Census numbers to understand what’s happening with Oklahoma’s people and economy. But the Census is so much more than just a convenient tool for policy analysis. Data from the Census is essential for deciding the distribution of billions of dollars in federal grants, for helping private businesses make decisions about where to locate and expand, for helping non-profits and public agencies target programs where they’re needed most, and for making sure Americans have fair voting representation in state and national elections.

For all of these reasons, it’s essential that Oklahomans are accurately counted in the 2020 Census. Unfortunately, Oklahoma contains many of the hardest to count Census tracts in the nation — areas where about one-quarter or more of households did not mail back their 2010 Census questionnaire. In particular, young children under 5, who by estimates are about 7 percent of Oklahoma’s population, are undercounted at a higher rate than any other age group.

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Interim studies grapple with foster care changes, the cost of child care, and family reunification (Capitol Update)

by | October 29th, 2018 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Children and Families | Comments (0)

Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.

The House committee on Children, Youth and Families last week considered three separate interim studies. The first concerned the new federal Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018, a new law to redirect federal foster care funding. Importantly, it does not provide new federal funding; it just redesigns the programs. Included in the effort are new evidence-based methods to prevent children from being removed from their homes and more appropriate placements for the children who are removed. There are several problems with Oklahoma implementing this new law, the most important of which is funding. First, there is a “maintenance of effort” requirement that will require us to bring our current expenditures for the programs covered back to 2014 levels before we can claim federal funding. Second, will be finding the state funds for the 50 percent match. The federal law gives states 2 years to implement it, and it looks like Oklahoma will postpone our effort at least 1 year.

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Oklahoma missing opportunities to give young adult parents and their kids a boost

by | September 25th, 2018 | Posted in Blog, Children and Families, Financial Security | Comments (0)

The first years of adulthood are a crucial time in anyone’s life. Many Oklahomans ages 18 to 24 are taking their first steps toward independence, whether they’re in college or just entering the workforce. These are also key years for brain development and learning critical decision-making skills. When these young people are also new parents of young children, these two most sensitive stages in development coincide. By targeting investment and support to families at this stage of their lives, we have an opportunity to strengthen multiple generations of Oklahomans.

Unfortunately, Oklahoma’s 62,000 young adult parents face hurdles to support their children and fulfill their own potential, according to Opening Doors for Young Parents, the latest KIDS COUNT® policy report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The fifty-state report reveals that, at 18 percent, Oklahoma is well above the national average (10 percent) of residents age 18 to 24 who are also parents. These families have limited access to opportunities to advance their education and find family-sustaining jobs.

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Will this generation make better priorities to protect the next generation? (Capitol Update)

Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.

I attended an interim study this week requested by Sen. Greg McCortney (R-Ada) and Sen. Kay Floyd (D-OKC) that presented some excellent, if discouraging information on adverse childhood experiences (ACES.) Early childhood experts talked about what ACES are, the lifetime consequences of ACES, what the record shows about ACES in Oklahoma children, and what works to avoid ACES.

ACES have been scientifically proven to disrupt childhood brain development, which in turn causes social, emotional and cognitive impairment that affects a person the rest of her life. Children suffering ACES are known to adopt health-risk behaviors that result in disease, disabilities, and social problems and eventually end in early death. A CDC study shows that people with six or more ACES died 20 years earlier on average than those without ACES. Those with zero ACES lived an average of 80 years while those with 6-plus ACES lived 60 years. The economic toll is also striking. The CDC estimates the lifetime costs associated with child maltreatment is $124 billion.

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New Census data shows that Oklahoma fell further behind the U.S. on poverty and uninsured rate for second consecutive year

Oklahoma lags behind the nation in our efforts to help families get ahead. New data from the Census Bureau shows that poverty in Oklahoma is still above the national average. In 2017, nearly 1 in 6 Oklahomans (15.8 percent) were living with income below the poverty line ($24,600 for a family of four) before taxes.  And though the percentage of Oklahoma families living in poverty is lower than it was last year (16.3 percent), the distance between Oklahoma’s poverty rate and the national rate has widened.

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Senate loses a talented and experienced workhorse with resignation of AJ Griffin (Capitol Update)

Sen. AJ Griffin

Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.

It will be a different legislature in 2019 for those interested in children and Oklahoma’s solutions to behavioral health issues without the presence of Sen. A.J. Griffin. From day one when she came to the Senate, A.J. brought with her a wealth of experience in and passion for working with kids. A.J. had been Executive Director of the Youth Services agency in Logan County.

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New KIDS COUNT Data Book ranks Oklahoma near the worst in the nation for child well-being

A new report shows the youngest generation of Oklahomans face far-reaching challenges. The state ranks near the bottom in the nation for most measures of child well-being, according to the 2018 KIDS COUNT® Data Book released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Overall, the report ranks Oklahoma 44th out of all 50 states for child well-being. Even in areas where Oklahoma has seen the most improvement recently, we’re not keeping up with the progress in other states. We have a high percentage of kids scoring below proficient in reading and math, a high rate of teen births, hundreds of thousands of kids living in poverty, and tens of thousands without health insurance. The 2018 Data Book shows that while Oklahoma has improved on some measures of child well-being, we still have a lot of work to do.

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Bipartisan Senate farm bill is a better way forward for families that struggle with food insecurity

Last month, we shared our concerns about the farm bill proposal being considered by the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill proposes deep cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) that could put 97,000 Oklahomans at risk of going hungry.  While that bill did not pass, 198 members of Congress, including all members of the Oklahoma delegation, did vote for it, and it could still be reconsidered very soon. But there’s good news as well: the Senate has proposed their own version of the farm bill, and it’s much better!

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Denying immigrants access to the safety net would have terrible consequences for us all

Most Americans agree that it’s important to have a social safety net.  Bad luck and hard times can hit any of us, and when that happens there should be something there to keep us from falling into destitution while we work to get back on our feet. That’s what the safety net does – it helps people avoid extreme deprivation and produces long-term benefits, especially for children. But recent moves by the Trump administration could create holes in the safety net, allowing many working families to crash straight through.

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The most difficult job in state government (Capitol Update)

Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.

Jami Ledoux is not a household name for most Oklahomans. But rest assured, it is for anyone involved in the child welfare system (except probably the children, who likely do well to tell you the name of their last caseworker). Jami recently resigned as director of child welfare services for DHS. When she resigned she described the job as “one of the most difficult jobs in state government.” There are a lot of difficult jobs in government, but among the most difficult, like child welfare director, are the ones that bring the full power of the state to bear on individual lives.

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