Commentary: Responding to the Census critical for Oklahoma’s Children and Future

As we move forward through the legislative session, the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICAO continues to do workshops, training sessions, and discussions about how to be effective advocates when dealing with policymakers.

I had the pleasure of serving on a panel recently with Leadership Oklahoma to discuss the U.S. Census and implications with people not filling out their forms.
As the Census Bureau proclaims, they want every counted, and counted only once. Oklahoma officials have been doing their part with limited resources to make this happen.
You will begin to see information mailed to you in just a few short weeks about submitting your household information to ascertain an accurate count of our nation’s population.  This year, you will have the ability to fill out the form by the traditional method of mailing your information through the U.S. Postal Service, or by the new methods of submitting information on a secure link over the Internet or through a secure phone line.

We are expecting and hoping to see a much-improved rate of return this year compared to previous years. Special thanks goes to Commerce Director Brent Kisling and his team for taking this effort so seriously with the “OK Let’s Count” initiative spearheaded by them and collaborated with by private partners like the OICA.  Learn more about this at OICA also has a link to “OK Let’s Count” on our website.

Each household not submitting information costs the state about $1,700 per person per year. So, a single parent with two children not counted is the same as the state losing more than $50,000 in funding from the federal government for programs that depend on census numbers, such as road and bridge funding, Title I schools, and Medicaid support for children.  

Please rest assured that census information is strictly confidential by law. It is a $250,000 fine and jail time for any census worker to release private information. None of the information will be released until a seventy-year time frame passes; this is to allow those who work on genealogy in the future to have access to that information so your future relatives will know about you.

Special thanks go to Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat and Senate Democratic Leader Kay Floyd for joining across party lines to encourage their elected colleagues to take part in census advocacy work by spreading information to the different parts of the state about this need. OICA also wants to thank Sen. Paul Scott for requesting a census interim study this past year to raise awareness among lawmakers about the important issues surrounding this count.

We also need to thank Gov. Kevin Stitt for his effort through his office and state agencies to help raise awareness through the clients, customers, and citizens they serve to make certain Oklahomans from all backgrounds receive help in filling out and submitting their information. In fact, an ambassador program was established with a person from each state agency meeting to discuss census efforts to ensure be best count possible.

With these efforts, we are optimistic a far better count is in store for Oklahoma, so please do your part and fill out your census forms.
This column’s child statistic sponsored by Sonic Drive-Ins: 23 percent of Hispanic/Latino children and 28 percent of African-American children in Oklahoma live in areas of high poverty. (SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau, 2013-17 American Community Survey.)

About OICA: The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy was established in 1983 by a group of citizens seeking to create a strong advocacy network that would provide a voice for the needs of children and youth in Oklahoma, particularly those in the state’s care and those growing up amid poverty, violence, abuse and neglect, disparities, or other situations that put their lives and future at risk. Our mission statement: “Creating awareness, taking action and changing policy to improve the health, safety and well-being of Oklahoma’s children.”

NOTE: Former state Rep. Joe Dorman was the Democratic nominee for governor of Oklahoma in 2014. He is a frequent contributor for the website, and his commentaries on public policy issues also appear occasionally in The City Sentinel newspaper.