PORTLAND, Ore. - Oregon's future economic prosperity depends on the well-being of our children today. However, a report released Wednesday by child advocacy nonprofit Children First for Oregon reveals that nearly one in four Oregon children is currently growing up in poverty.
The annual Progress Report, which tracks year-to-year progress in 25 indicators of child well-being in the areas of health, safety, and economic stability, ranks Oregon in the bottom half of all states for child poverty rates.
Moreover, the rate has gone virtually unchanged from the previous year and remains above the national average.
According to Children First, the implications of such high child poverty on the state's ability to prosper in the next decade and beyond are dire.
"Growing up in poverty is the single greatest threat to child well-being and development," says Children First Executive Director Tonia Hunt. "We must ask ourselves, what kind of Oregon are we building when we allow this many children to be left behind?"
Children who experience poverty, defined as an annual income of $19,790 for a family of three, face poor nutrition, delayed development, chronic stress, difficulty in school, and increased risk of foster care.
Poverty is one of the greatest predictors of whether a child will enter kindergarten ready for school and whether children who start out behind their peers ever get a chance to catch up.
Without early intervention, growing up in poverty increases the likelihood of chronic health issues, failure to graduate from high school, and persistent unemployment as children become adults.
The group said many experts agree that families today require an annual income of twice the Federal Poverty Level to cover the rising cost of providing basic necessities.
Children First called on policymakers to re-examine state priorities and address the problem of childhood poverty with urgency by ensuring that full-time work pays sufficiently to sustain a family, by removing barriers to employment for parents, and by growing services that see families through periods of hardship.
"Oregon children should have every opportunity for a bright, successful future," says Hunt. "We all depend on their success, so we must craft state policies and budgets that put opportunities within reach of more Oregon families. Investing in our kids today is our best hope for building Oregon's prosperity tomorrow."
Download the full report here.
Download the key findings here.