PORTLAND, Ore. - Research released Tuesday by the nonprofit advocacy group Children First for Oregon reveals that despite signs of a soft economic recovery, there were more Oregon children living in poverty in 2011 (23.4%) than in the previous two years.
In total, 44.2% of Oregon's children were either poor or low-income in 2011.
The 2012 County Data book, an annual publication produced by Children First, is an exhaustive compilation of the most critical indicators of children's health, safety, and well-being for each county in the state.
This year's edition shows that while unemployment is on a steady downward trend and personal bankruptcies are declining, an additional 12,800 children nonetheless slipped into poverty last year.
"We are encouraged to see signs of an economic recovery," says Children First Executive Director Robin Christian. "But the increase in childhood poverty and low-income children tells us that these jobs are not adequately supporting families.
"As we emerge from the worst recession in a generation, we need to ensure that those of us hit hardest by the economic downturn have access to supports that protect children, stabilize struggling families, and create a pathway to financial security."
Supports, she says, like the Employment Related Day Care program — which subsidizes child care for low-income families while they work — and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families — which provides cash assistance to low-income parents who are striving to become self-sufficient.
Not only do these programs allow parents to enter and stay in the workforce, says Christian, they also reduce the need for foster care and provide children with access to the early learning opportunities that help prepare them for school.
The County Data Book also shows that reports and founded cases of child abuse and neglect were on the rise. According to Christian, investments in programs that prevent child abuse and stabilize at-risk families—like Differential Response and Family Support & Connections—will be critical to mitigating those numbers and keeping more children safe in their homes.
This report comes at a time when the state Legislature is deciding the fate of many vital programs.
Christian says, "these numbers tell us clearly that Oregon's children are at risk and job growth by itself is not enough to get this state back on its feet. If we want Oregon to be a place where families can thrive and where children are succeeding, we need to be investing in programs that will see families through periods of economic uncertainty."
- Third-grade reading proficiency dropped from 83.4% in 2010 to 70.1% in 2011.
- There are 197,346 children living in poverty (23.4%); 382,542 are low-income (up from 374,197 in 2010).
- Healthy Kids enrollment continues to increase (from 330,906 to 371,501)
Founded in 1991, Children First is Oregon's most respected non-profit, non-partisan child advocacy organization committed to improving the lives of Oregon's vulnerable children and families. Our mission is to make long-term, systemic change by advocating for policies and programs that keep children healthy and safe, and strengthen families. www.cffo.org