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State’s Future Depends on Coordinated, Community-Based Solutions to Improve Children’s Outcomes, New Children Now Report Shows

Oct 22, 2008

OAKLAND, CA – To shore up California’s economic and civic outlook, state and community leaders, advocates and concerned citizens must work to address the many local environmental factors that together influence children’s development, according to a new report by Children Now, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to giving all children the opportunity to reach their full potential. The 2008 California County Scorecard of Children’s Well-Being: Creating Healthier Communities for Our Future is an innovative, online public resource that measures counties’ progress in enabling children to be healthy, safe and ready to learn in an effort to promote inquiry and action.

The new web tool tracks 26 key, interrelated indicators of children’s well-being by county, providing a current measure and trend for each. Furthermore, the relative performances of counties on every indicator are highlighted and grouped by county population density and per capita income. In these ways, the Scorecard enables and encourages the discovery of best practices in serving children’s needs. For example, on the indicator of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in preschool, Imperial (48%) and Yuba (52%) counties are dramatically leading all other low-income rural counties, with Tulare County (23%) lowest.

Individual counties also received a letter grade in children’s overall well-being, based on their scores across the Scorecard’s 26 indicators. Fifty-three counties received “C” grades or lower; only three received a “B-”; and two counties were not graded due to lack of data. While these grades provide a high-level assessment that underscores the state’s generally poor performance on children’s issues in recent years, the Scorecard’s value is in going a level deeper to show that county-level performances on any one indicator vary widely. The clear distinctions in child well-being by county point to the need for solutions that consider unique, local characteristics.

“The Scorecard looks at children’s well-being with an eye toward prevention by tracking addressable environmental factors that work in concert to determine the ultimate outcome, not just for children but for our society as a whole,” said Ted Lempert, president of Children Now. “It provides actionable data that emphasize the need for more holistic solutions tuned to community-level differences.”

“Children’s physical, social, service and economic environments have a profound impact on their health and must be approached as a whole in order to ensure that they thrive and eventually become healthy, productive adults,” said Robert K. Ross, M.D., president and chief executive officer of The California Endowment.

“But, to be effective, proposed solutions must consider the unique characteristics and diverse needs of children in local communities. This Scorecard is meant to help counties identify those needs so they can take action.”

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