For advocates, policymakers, and the general public, having access to reliable data is among the essential building blocks of informed discussion and debate. Last week at the Fall Forum event of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA), participants were introduced to the new KIDS COUNT data center, a great online resource that should help guide policy discussions and decisions in Oklahoma on a whole range of issues over the coming years.
A partnership between OICA and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the KIDS COUNT data center provides comprehensive online national, state, and community level data and information on the well-being of children. The site tracks 82 indicators of child well-being in such categories as education, health and safety, economic well-being, family and community, risky behaviors, and general demographics. It allows for easy comparisons of Oklahoma to other states and of each of the state’s 77 counties. From the main Oklahoma page, you can generate ranking tables, maps and trend graphs for each of the indicators that can then be incorporated into reports, presentations and grant applications. Here is one example, a map displaying the Change in Teen Birth Rates, by county, between 2005 and 2007:
In addition to introducing the Data Center website, OICA also made available the 2009 Oklahoma KidsCount factbook, which can be read and downloaded online. The factbook spotlights twelve key indicators of child well-being, including birthweight, birth to teens, child abuse and neglect, high school dropouts, violent crime arrests, and child and youth deaths. This year’s data found that Oklahoma has made progress compared to the mid- or late-1990s on nine of the twelve indicators, most notably in a nearly 50 percent drop in the rate of youth violent crime arrests.
The KIDS COUNT data center offers an invaluable resource to help us identify where we are doing well and where the most significant problems remain. In these times of growing needs and scarce resources, the importance of good data has never been greater.