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Oregon kids count on us, so they should be ‘counted’ posted on 08/01/2018

The looming danger of a census undercount in 2020 would present a serious threat to Oregon children.

Already, 12 percent of Oregon kids under five years old are at risk of being missed in the census as federal programs that support child well-being are in jeopardy, according to the 2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book released June 28 by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Oregon ranks 30th in the nation in overall child well-being. While Oregon continues to lead the majority of states in children’s health care coverage, improvements in education have lagged with Oregon ranking 48th in the nation in high school education. Additionally, Oregon is far behind much of the country in enrolling young children in early education programs.

“Systemic barriers and inequities both past and present have left us with an uneven playing field,” said Tonia Hunt, executive director of Children First for Oregon. “Deep disparities … persist for children of color, low-income children, children in immigrant families and children in rural communities.”

An improperly funded census will only contribute to these disparities.

“We can achieve an inclusive survey by building and strengthening strategic community partnerships, spreading awareness, and removing questions related to citizenship status in order to safeguard the efficacy of the 2020 census,” Miranda Rabuck, communications director of Children First for Oregon wrote in an email to The Mountain Times. “It isn’t too late to conduct a census that provides proper funding, representation, and programs that support the healthy development of kids.”

Census outreach efforts face daunting challenges, with children in underserved communities most at risk of being undercounted. These same children also stand to suffer the most in the event that vital programs face reductions in funding.

“More than $2 billion in federal funds are allocated each year to programs in Oregon such as Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Head Start using census-derived data,” Hunt said. “An inaccurate census could put these funds – and the essential resources they provide for communities – at risk.”

This data should prompt urgency from policymakers and communities to do right by our kids, Hunt added. “Children lack political power and representation. It’s up to all of us to ensure all kids are counted and considered national and state priorities.”

By Larry Berteau/MT
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