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Study Highlights Needs of Children's Programs, Call for Action Issued by Senator Brown

If Oklahoma does not begin addressing some of the many problems its children face, the state will be incurring huge costs in the future when it ultimately is forced to deal with the results of that neglect. That is the conclusion of a new Senate report commissioned by Senator Ben Brown.

"The children of Oklahoma face a multitude of problems endemic to our society, ranging from inadequate health care to poor nutrition to physical abuse. Unfortunately, unlike many other states, Oklahoma hasn't done a very good job of protecting its kids. Instead, we've unconsciously adopted a policy of neglect, letting our children fend for themselves on a road paved with few opportunities and little hope of success," said Senator Brown.

"The end result is not only a hard life for our kids, but the erosion of our society as a whole. We're spending millions of dollars treating the end result of our neglect, whether its prison or welfare, when we could avoid a lot of pain and expense by investing a little time and money early when it counts."

The findings of the Senate report included:

  • Children who receive early childhood education such as Head Start are more apt to succeed in society and less likely to end up in prison or on welfare;

  • Oklahoma serves only 50 percent of the children eligible for Head Start;

  • Oklahoma has the 11th highest rate of children living in poverty, 4th highest in the region;

  • A child born to a teen mother is ten times more likely to live in poverty;

  • Oklahoma has the 16th highest teen birth rate;

  • Children born to teen mothers have lower birth weights and poorer health;

  • Drug and alcohol abuse played a role in 80 percent of the confirmed child abuse cases in Oklahoma;

  • Children who are abused are more likely to be involved in drug and alcohol abuse later in life; substance abusers are more likely to end up in prison or on welfare;

  • One in five Oklahoma children does not have health insurance;

  • Children without insurance are more likely to make expensive emergency room visits and less likely to get immunizations or other preventive health care.

"Anyway you look at them, the statistics are shocking. They indicate that a huge percentage of our kids aren't getting the attention or, quite frankly, the chance they deserve to succeed in life. We all pay for that, if not today, sometime down the road," said Senator Brown.

"All of the evidence tells us that it makes good sense to invest a few dollars on children early in their life, rather than waiting until it's too late when the solutions are far more expensive."

The Senate report also highlighted the children's programs currently in use in Oklahoma, including Head Start, child abuse prevention, ChildrenFirst, SoonerStart, juvenile delinquency prevention and others.

"Our problem isn't the lack of children's programs; it's a lack of support and commitment. Until we give those programs the resources they need, abused and neglected children will be a painful fact of life in Oklahoma. It's an unconscionable situation that no person should sit still for," said Senator Brown.

The Oklahoma City legislator is currently working on legislation to address the challenges facing Oklahoma children. He plans to introduce it for consideration during the coming 1998 legislative session.

Contact info
Senate Communications Division (405) 521-5605