The Children's Defense Fund, honorably headed by Marian Wright Edelman, has released the State of Children in the States data factbook (see the above website). It gathers statistics from various sites to inform people how their state is doing in terms of relieving those living in poverty, but mostly children and their condition in the United States. Of course, I am concerned with the states of Washington and California since I have family in both - but it is Oregon and my own son that interests me the most. The news is encouraging and today's article will present some data and my response.
Out of 50 states, Oregon ranks 3rd in newborns "low birthweight." Translated, that means that 47 other states have higher rates of low birthweight. Low birthweight has been associated with learning difficulties, lower immune systems and other associated correlations like limited prenatal care, poverty and future health concerns. Evidently, Oregonian expectant mothers take care of themselves and the stars align well for them.
Oregon ranks 6th in infant mortality; 44 other states have higher infant mortality rates - which means that Oregon's newborns stay alive. We had our son in Washington so I hesitate to speak to the quality of the birthing practices in Oregon but if it is anywhere near the care, sensitivity and professionalism of the birth process we went through - I am not surprised Oregon ranks high in preventing infant mortality.
Child Hunger is another category I want to point to when I speak of the proactive, positive stance by the Oregon legislature and its officials. Of the applicants who receive assistance via food stamps, 92 % of the possible recipients receive the assistance (SNAP). Pretty impressive statistic when you think there is a minute amount of fraudulent claims and claims that are made for college students and single individuals.
In 2010 there were 535,000 children in Oregon public schools. Consider there were slight fluctuations in the 2011 number and the percentage of children receiving free and reduced lunch (which is an indicator of poverty since the qualification includes being below the federal poverty line - that's somwhere below $15,000 a year for a family of three), is 52%. The actual 2011 number is 328,000 children are served by the federal free and reduced lunch program. While this is a sign of the times, I have visited schools and talked with principals who provide free breakfast and lunch simply because the percentage of children who qualify for the program is so high. I believe there is actually a policy in place for Portland Public schools that allows schools to provide free and reduced breakfast and lunch for all children if the total percentage of kids who qualify exceeds 65%.
At any rate, Oregon cares for its children more than most other states as illustrated by its proactive stance and positive practices - in my experience, they err on the side of human and that is a good message to send to your citizens.