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Oregon Community Foundation says 28 percent of local children live in poverty

A new report released by Oregon Community Foundation states that Crook County is among the highest in the state for child poverty.

According to data compiled by OCF, Crook County has a 28 percent child poverty rate, a percentage that is one of the highest in Oregon but actually lower than neighboring counties Jefferson (32 percent) and Wheeler (37 percent).

The stated mission of the Oregon Community Foundation is to improve life for all Oregonians. A critical part of that mission, the organization states, is assuring that all of Oregon's children have the opportunity to reach their full potential. To that end, OCF collaborates with other philanthropic organizations throughout the state in its initiatives and works in partnership with the public sector to address the needs of Oregon's children and families.

OCF's 2017 Tracking Oregon's Progress (TOP) report focuses on Oregon's opportunity gap. The report, titled "Toward a Thriving Future: Closing the Opportunity Gap for Oregon's Kids," addresses the widening opportunity gap facing Oregon children.

The report states that nearly half of children in Oregon (47 percent) are being raised in low-income families. OCF further claims that child poverty is rising in Oregon, with one in five (22 percent) of Oregon's children living in poverty.

"Families are faced with growing economic insecurity, which impacts children's chances of future economic mobility," the report says. "Family incomes have stagnated while essential costs like child care and housing have increased. The cost of child care in Oregon has increased by 18 percent over the past decade, and many families, especially those in rural communities and among certain communities of color, are unable to afford quality child care."

To remedy the current situation, OCF believes stakeholders should encourage economically and racially integrated communities by supporting collaborative affordable housing solutions.

"Increasing the availability of affordable housing in opportunity-rich neighborhoods gives low-income families better access to jobs, high-quality schools and safe communities," the report states.

OCF also calls for improving economic prospects for families by supporting career and technical education (CTE). The organization asserts that CTE programs train people for skilled, well-paying blue-collar jobs and increase low-income workers' earnings. In addition, the nonprofit believes it would help to increase the availability of family-wage jobs by supporting small businesses, entrepreneurs and rural job creation.

Locally, the Crook County School District is continually working to decrease poverty among its students. Superintendent Duane Yecha said that the district's instructional program assists students who are facing poverty.

"For example, we started this school year with a staff training to improve our teaching strategies for students in poverty," he said. "Historically, Title I programs were designed to improve achievement levels for those students impacted by low-income."    

This becomes an important objective when it comes to students advancing beyond high school.

"Lower-income families can tend to have less of an internal push for higher education," Yecha observed.      

At this point, Yecha could not say for certain if these efforts or other outside factors have made a long-lasting positive impact on child poverty locally. But he did express optimism that things might be moving in the right direction.

"While it is early to call it a trend, we are seeing our local situation improving this year," he said.

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