“Northeast Oklahoma has a societal foundation that expects the best for our citizens and is built on a school system that produces healthy, educated, and drug free children who make smart choices; families that have strong values and employ healthy parenting skills, which produces school ready children; housing that is adequate and affordable; and a holistic health system that is evidence based, accessible, and cost effective.”
Socio-economic issues may hinder our regional growth potential. To remedy these issues at their roots, additional resources, including parenting skills training, must be directed toward family services targeting children ages zero to three. This is a critical age for child development to provide a solid foundation in order for children to learn and avoid behavioral issues occurring in our rural areas such as drugs, violence, and domestic abuse that result in unengaged citizens. Educational services must focus on the “whole child” versus small skill sets. Northeast Oklahoma continues to struggle with cycles of poverty among families which perpetuate stymied growth. Oklahoma is at the lowest end of Gallup’s Well-Being Index with a ranking of 43 out of 50, which is primarily due to the very low ranking of eastern Oklahoma (422nd out of 435). Considerable resources will be required for preventative services, which produce only long term results; however, without such change we will never have enough resources to address the results.
Socio-economic discussions were wide reaching and focused on four central themes:
1) improving coordination, communication, and collaboration of social service agencies and education,
2) addressing holistic family needs,
3) developing business and community partnerships to build and support schools, and
4) increasing awareness and access to services focusing on teen pregnancy.
Community deliberations regarding the themes brought four results:
1. General Well-Being of Northeast Oklahoma Exceeds the Nation’s Average – we must take responsibility for our future and this empowerment will increase expectations and wellbeing.
2. Teen Pregnancy Rates in the Region are Far Below State Average – teen pregnancies have a great impact on workforce skills, school ready children, and a host of other socioeconomic issues.
3. Child Abuse and Divorce Rates in Northeast Oklahoma are Far Below State Average – family stress is caused by a myriad of socio-economic issues and child abuse/divorce rates are indications of such stress.
4. Businesses and Communities have Rallied in Support of Schools – schools have become responsible for teaching children life skills, coping skills, and education; they cannot do this alone it requires strong community support.