The State of Babies Yearbook is a national and state resource developed by ZERO TO THREE to tell the story of America’s babies through key indicators in the domains infants and toddlers need to thrive: Good Health, Strong Families, and Positive Early Learning Experiences. The State of Babies Yearbook, an initiative of Think Babies™, provides policymakers and advocates with national and state-level data to help them advance policies to improve the lives of babies and families. Where children are born can affect their chances for a strong start in life.
The State of Babies Yearbook compiles nearly 60 indicators—specifically for children ages 0 to 3—to measure progress across the three policy areas. States are ranked by a set of indicators and grouped into four tiers that represent their progress towards assuring access to healthcare, paid family and medical leave, quality early learning opportunities, and more. The data was obtained from national data sets, such as the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and the National Survey of Children’s Health. The information provided can help states identify problem areas that they can address to support their infants and toddlers.
The rubric used in the State of Babies Yearbook is represented by the word GROW – Getting Started, Reaching Forward, Improving Outcomes and Working Effectively. Our state profile provides a snapshot of how infants, toddlers and their families are faring in each of the three policy domains listed in the first paragraph. Within each domain, data is collected for several child, family and policy indicators that can be compared to national averages. Each measure is scored using the GROW rubric.
There are 154,351 babies in Oklahoma (down about 3,000 from 2019), representing 3.9% of the state’s population. As many as 49.9% live in households with incomes less than twice the federal poverty line, which equates to about $50,000 annually for a family of four. This places them at an economic disadvantage. Like all of the youngest children across the country, Oklahoma’s babies are diverse and raised in a variety of family contexts. Children of color represent 47.8% of our babies and 20.4% of our infants and toddlers live in rural Oklahoma. To help ensure an equitable start for all babies, a wide variety of policies and services are needed.
Oklahoma’s Overall score is in the Getting Started range, as it is in the domains of Good Health and Strong Families. In the domain of Positive Early Learning Experiences, we achieved the score of Reaching Forward. Unfortunately, this is a drop from the 2019 score of Improving Outcomes. You can view the entire data set on The State of Oklahoma’s Babies here.
The yearbook also looks at promising policies and practices from states across the country. Through our Early Childhood Legislative Caucus, we have advocated for many of these recommendations over the last four years and will continue to do so. Included in those recommendations are the following;
✓ Increase Medicaid eligibility levels for pregnant women, and extend coverage for new mothers through the first year after birth
✓ Ensure states’ Medicaid plans include reimbursement for maternal depression screening and doulas
✓ Increase participation in WIC
✓ Ensure protections for pregnant workers that provide job security and prohibit discriminatory practices
✓ Expand access to paid family and medical leave
✓ Expand access to home visiting services
✓ Implement a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary approach that engages diverse stakeholders and community members in planning and developing solutions
✓ Expand training for the health care workforce on the experience of racism in medical care, implicit bias (unconscious attitudes that can lead to negative behavior toward Black and Hispanic people) and culturally competent care
✓ Support more research into promising practice models, such as doula care and breastfeeding support
✓ Build upon successful public awareness campaigns focusing on safe infant sleep practices
✓ Expand access to paid family and medical leave
✓ Expand and improve state Maternal Mortality Review Committees
✓ Improve data collection to facilitate ongoing monitoring of critical indicators and to allow for disaggregation by race and ethnicity
You can read more about Think Babies and sign up here for email updates. Follow Zero to Three on Facebook and Twitter to see the latest State of Babies Yearbook news and updates.
Hot off the press this week is the 2020 Kids Count Databook, State Trends in Childhood Well-Being, produced each year by The Annie E. Casey Foundation. The Oklahoma host agency for data collection, assessment and interpretation is the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can read their press release and statements here.
Looking at four primary categories – Economic Well-Being, Education, Health, and Family and Community – states are ranked in order of outcomes along with an overall ranking. Oklahoma is now ranked 45th overall falling from 42nd in 2019. In Economic Well-Being there has been a slight improvement from 35th in 2019 to 33rd in 2020. In the Family and Community category, we have remained ranked 40th for the past two years. In Health we are now ranked 49th , trailed only by Mississippi, and cannot accurately be compared to 2019 since one of the indicators has changed. However, we did hold a ranking of 43rd in Health in 2019.
Early policy recommendations are similar to those made in State of Babies Yearbook and include:
✓ Increasing access to health care and other programs that keep children healthy
✓ Expanding Medicaid
✓ Providing paid family and medical leave
✓ Restoring Oklahoma’s EITC refundability
✓ Addressing racial and ethnic inequalities
✓ Count all children in the 2020 Census
The only conclusions we can draw from both of these important documents is that Oklahoma has so much more work to do on behalf of our youngest citizens. We must continue to elevate the critical importance of meeting the basic needs of all of our children and their families. As a foundation, we are on the right track with our four focus areas of healthcare, childcare, early literacy/numeracy and family support programs. We must continue to advocate for the policy changes that provide children and their families the critical supports needed to break the cycles of poverty, neglect and abuse. We have nowhere to go but up!