Recently Children First for Oregon released a report card that once again gave Douglas County poor ratings for children’s welfare. The percent of children living in poverty is high — 28 to 31 percent — which is associated with a host of other problems including child abuse, poor educational achievement and teen pregnancy.
In the same issue of The News-Review carrying the Children First report, there was a front page article highlighting one effect that poverty has on the county in general: Downtown Roseburg can’t find a retailer to fill prominent retail space because the local median income is too low (i.e., the poverty rate is too high).
It seems a vicious spiral: Because of the high rate of poverty and its associated social problems, the county can’t attract businesses that could provide jobs to bring people out of poverty.
Most of us are bearing the consequences of local poverty in some way. What could any one of us do about the county’s chronically increasing poverty rate and the difficulty recruiting and retaining employers? Alone, we could do a little, such as supporting local antipoverty agencies to the extent that our charity budgets allow. Collectively, we could do much more.
Small donors acting together have shared knowledge, making them more informed about the causes and effective solutions for the changes they seek. They have more financial power to encourage agencies dealing with poverty to be more efficient and effective, and a louder voice with which to affect public policy.
Women United for Douglas County, a United Way Women’s Leadership Council, formed in 2012 and strives to be such a collective organization of donors. Noting that childhood poverty and single parenthood are tightly interconnected, and that the rates of both have been steadily increasing for 30 years, WUDC initiated the Poverty and the Single Parent Family Project with the aim of reducing the number of children in impoverished, single-parent homes, and improving the outcomes for these most vulnerable children.
The project began by identifying what programs are already in place, how effective they are, how extensive their reach is, and where gaps in the spectrum of services exist.
For just a few examples: Preventing unintended pregnancy in single women increases their educational attainment and job prospects and increases the high school graduation rate for their children.
The Nurse Family Partnership program, which provides home visits to low-income families in their first pregnancy through the child’s second birthday, results in fewer language delays in toddlers, reduced child abuse, fewer behavioral and academic problems in grade school and fewer arrests and substance abuse problems among teen children.
Now in the middle of its first fundraising cycle, WUDC will commit funds raised to organizations with proposals for programs that fill service gaps or expand the reach of effective services.
Want to do something about the shape the county is in? Call 541-672-1734 to join WUDC or support the Poverty and the Single Parent Family Project. Everyone benefits when we reduce the number of families with children living in poverty!
Cindy Kremser of Roseburg is a physician and the chairwoman of Women United for Douglas County. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.