Oklahoma Native kids only racial group to exceed national averages

BY Phoenix Archives
04/08/2014 08:28 AM
BY MIKE AVERILL
Tulsa World Staff Writer

TULSA, Okla. – Oklahoma children, particularly racial minorities, are lagging behind children in the rest of the United States in meeting key milestones, according to a new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

“Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children” highlights concerns about barriers children face in achieving success and calls for a multisector approach to developing solutions.

The report uses a composite score of 12 indexes on a scale of 1 to 1,000 for each racial group.

Nationally, Asians/Pacific Islanders scored the highest with 776, followed by whites at 704, Latinos at 404, American Indians at 387 and African-Americans at 345.

In Oklahoma, children fared worse than the national averages, with Asians/Pacific Islanders leading the way at 729, followed by whites at 606, Latinos at 350 and African-Americans at 306. The exception in Oklahoma was American Indians, whose composite score was 478, 91 points better than the national average.

“With our state’s racial diversity and changing landscape, it is all the more important to begin looking at ways to ensure all children reach their full potential,” said Terry Smith, president and CEO of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy.

“If there is one thing data shows us year after year, it is that Oklahoma’s children are facing tremendous barriers to success due to family instability, poverty, poor heath and low educational achievement, and these barriers are even worse for children of color.”

The report points out that from 2000 to 2010 the state saw its Hispanic population increase by 46 percent and that Oklahoma has one of the largest American Indian populations in the country. Additionally, it predicts that minorities will represent the majority of children in the United States by 2018.

“It is imperative that we begin to pool resources in a focused way to not only close achievement gaps but support all children in reaching these important milestones,” Smith said.

The indexes the report considered include babies born at normal birth weight; children ages 3 to 5 enrolled in nursery school, preschool or kindergarten; fourth-graders at or above proficiency in reading; eighth-graders at or above proficiency in math; females ages 15-19 who delay childbearing; high school students graduating on time; young adults in school or working; young adults with associate degrees or higher; and children living in two-parent homes.

Desiree Doherty, executive director of the Parent Child Center of Tulsa, noted that “critical developmental essentials are missing in so many children’s lives between this report’s first two indicators.”

“After ‘born at a normal birth weight’ and before ‘enrolled in nursery school, preschool or kindergarten,’ every child, regardless of color or race, must have three key ingredients for healthy physical and emotional development. These fundamental essentials are safety, stability and nurturing.

“The way a child receives these – or not – is in that reciprocal relationship with their primary caregiver.”

Doherty also commented on “the brain’s developing architecture,” saying it “is so powerfully influenced by a child’s earliest experience that the first three years of life form the basis for all cognitive and social-emotional learning that will follow.”

The report includes four policy recommendations to help ensure that all children and their families achieve their full potential: gather and analyze racial and ethnic data to inform policies and decision making; utilize data and impact-assessment tools to target investments to yield the greatest impact for children of color; develop and implement promising and proven programs and practices focused on improving outcomes for children and youths of color; and integrate strategies that explicitly connect vulnerable groups to new jobs and opportunities in economic and workforce development.

“I think that last one is spot on,” said Tom Taylor, executive director for Emergency Infant Services. “What I’m finding is people aren’t aware of the opportunities that are out there. We’re trying to connect them with the services they need.”

– REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM THE TULSA WORLD

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