For Immediate Release: February 5, 2009
Senator Jay Paul Gumm discussing his SB 697
Lt. Governor, Legislators Unveil Legislation
Proposing Creation of Children’s Cabinet
State leaders announced a plan today to streamline
services for agencies and organizations that serve Oklahoma’s
children. Lt. Governor Jari Askins, Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, Rep. Joe
Dorman and others discussed legislation that would create Oklahoma’s
first-ever Children’s Cabinet.
“Despite the efforts of many in and outside
of state government, Oklahoma consistently falls behind when it
comes to children’s issues and we can do better,”
Askins said. “Now is the time to work together to create
a vision that will ensure the future success of our children.
We must determine what we can do to best use our resources and
address children’s needs,” she explained.
Senate Bill 697 and House Bill 1655 would create
an Oklahoma’s Children’s Cabinet to identify challenges
facing all children and youth and to develop long-term strategies
to address their overall quality of life. Policy recommendations
will cover a wide range of issues, including academics, health
and well-being, safety, employment training and job access. By
serving as a regular forum for decision makers, tough issues facing
Oklahoma’s children will be addressed with a comprehensive
policy instead of the current piecemeal approach.
“There is much work to be done,” said
Sen. Gumm (D-Durant). “We still have a myriad of children’s
issues in the state. By creating the Children’s Cabinet,
we will be able to work together with other agencies and specialized
organizations to approach these problems with long-term, workable
Oklahoma ranks consistently low or below average
in national studies on children’s health, safety, academics
and quality of life. For example:
· Oklahoma still ranks 40th nationally in
infant mortality rates, despite a 5% decrease
· Oklahoma ranks 45th in child deaths (after
a 12% increase in five years)
· The state’s child poverty rate increased
13% in six years, ranking Oklahoma 44th
· The High school dropout rates ranks Oklahoma
36th despite a 43% decrease
· The teen death rate in the state ranks
45th (after a 17% increase in five years)
· Child abuse neglect has increased 7.4%
over the last 14 years
· There have been over 21,000 Oklahoma juveniles
arrested in 2005; 800 for violent crime
“We have an opportunity to borrow from the
success of other states’ Children’s Cabinets and make
a positive, meaningful difference in the lives of Oklahoma children.
We can refocus and refine our efforts by bringing everyone to
the table and so they can work to develop comprehensive plans
together,” Rep. Dorman (D-Rush Springs) said.
The Children’s Cabinet will work to develop,
recommend and implement coordinated state policies to improve
the health and welfare of Oklahoman children and families. Composed
of 15 top ranking officials whose agencies have working interests
in children’s policy in the state of Oklahoma, the Cabinet
will have no fiscal impact on the state by utilizing existing
government agency expertise and resources. The Oklahoma Commission
on Children and Youth, which will provide support staff, will
work closely with members of the Children’s Cabinet.
“This proposal is a winner for the state,
it requires no new funding in year when money is sparse and would
help us to better address some of our state’s most pressing
issues,” Askins concluded.