Over the past two weeks, I have had the pleasure of attending two collaborative efforts at the national level. Both meetings focused on important issues facing Oklahoma’s children and our population at large, and I am excited to share the details below.

The first opportunity was in Washington, D.C., where I had the chance to attend the annual Partnership for America’s Children forum and visit with staffers for the Oklahoma congressional delegation. I am happy to say that our U.S. senators and representatives are served by dedicated and knowledgeable men and women. I was especially thankful that Congresswoman Kendra Horn was able to visit in person and that I had the opportunity to see her preside over a committee in which Congressman Frank Lucas serves in a leadership role as well.

The Partnership for America’s Children coalition focused on issues of race equity and opportunities for at-risk children. Studies show that children of color continue to face economic, educational and social barriers that white children do not. If we are dedicated to improving conditions for all children, those inequities must be addressed. It is nice to know there are organizations like OICA in almost every state that work on issues like this for children within their boundaries.

The next gathering, the Early Childhood Summit, was held by our regional US Census office in Denver. The meeting brought together early childhood educators and community representatives from Western states, including Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma, as well as representatives from tribal governments. The other two Oklahomans attending represented the State Department of Education and the Chickasaw Nation.

Much of the meeting focused on looking at ways to ensure an accurate count for the 2020 Census, especially for those ages 0-5, which happens to be the lowest percentage of counted Americans that is recorded annually. In fact, the 2010 Census saw about one million children nationwide that went uncounted, which was 4.6% of that population.

An undercount will financially harm states and communities that miss out on federal funds distributed by population to a wide variety of programs, including education, food assistance, health care, housing, loans and transportation. The most recent study by the Census Bureau found that $675 billion was distributed by federal agencies or programs to the states in 2015. If our state has an undercount, it will be roughly $1,800 per person that will be lost annually. It was estimated that Oklahoma lost tens of millions of dollars potentially coming back to our state because many children were not counted.

Undercounting children has been a problem for decades and across the world with nations that do a similar count. The U.S. Census Bureau has been working with early childhood advocates, like the ones at the Early Childhood Summit, to bring the education about the Census into schools and nonprofit organizations and get the word out about undercounts. From this gathering, the attendees formed a Complete Count Committee for our region, and I am pleased to serve on this group.

The Census Bureau will be working to hire members of the communities being surveyed. If you have an interest in working on the 2020 Census as a part-time job, please check out https://2020census.gov/en/jobs.html for details.

We also encourage all child advocates to attend a gathering of Oklahomans from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Thursday in Oklahoma City to learn more about the U.S. Census in Oklahoma. You can register and get more details by emailing info@oica.org.

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