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Disparities in San Diego Children's Well-Being Reflect Distribution of Mexican Immigrants

Jul 14, 2006

SAN DIEGO, CA—The issues affecting children in border communities should not be perceived as just on the border, according to new research issued by Children Now, a leading nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to assuring all children thrive. Unlike previous reports on children’s well-being, Children Now analyzed key measures of children’s family economic status, health and education on a community level in San Diego County, unveiling disparities in child well-being in several areas with highly concentrated Latino residents and Mexican immigrants compared to the rest of the county.

The report, entitled A Snapshot of Children on the San Diego-Mexico Border, defines a “border community” not by its physical location on the border with Mexico, but by its higher concentration of residents from Mexico and who identify as Latino, in an attempt to highlight border communities’ unique set of social factors and challenges. San Diego County’s border communities are in the north, south and eastern parts of the county. Highlights from the report include:

  • 40,000 more children under 18 live in border communities than in the rest of the county. Nearly one-quarter of children under 18 in border communities lives in poverty, compared to 10 percent in other communities.
  • Schools in border communities report lower percentages of high school graduates who meet the state’s college entrance requirements than schools in the rest of the county.

“The report provides a different way to look at border communities—based on the people in their community, rather than their physical location,” said Sandra Naughton, policy director at Children Now and author of the report. “By looking at the communities through this lens, we can broaden the conversation about how and where to address needs, direct resources and develop policies to ensure children in border communities in San Diego County and throughout California have opportunities to thrive.”

The Metropolitan Area Advisory Committee (MAAC Project), a local community-based organization, co-sponsored a press briefing on July 14 at its Community Charter School in Chula Vista to release the report. MAAC Project and two other local community-based organizations that provide health and social services in border communities spoke at the briefing in support of the report’s policy recommendations, which include how to improve children’s family economic security, health and education.

To address the countywide and statewide trend of lower percentages of Latinos than whites meeting college entrance requirements, the report suggests expanding after school and mentoring programs, and other proven approaches to increasing the academic success of children. “The children and young adults in our communities are being left behind by many of the early childhood programs and schools in our county,” said Antonio V. Pizano, chief executive officer of the MAAC Project. “That is why we started our own Head Start centers and charter high school, to ensure that even children from low-income or at-risk neighborhoods receive a responsive, quality education. All of the children and teens in San Diego deserve a first-class education.”

The report also calls for increased investment in programs that contribute to family economic security. “Children thrive when their families thrive,” said Andrea Skorepa, executive director of Casa Familiar. “We’re improving the economic stability of San Ysidro families by implementing multi-dimensional strategies that address the many challenges low-income families face when trying to move up the economic ladder—from workshops and training in financial decision-making to job placement services. But families throughout the county face these same challenges and we need to provide for them as well.”

As throughout California and the nation, the report connects children’s health in San Diego County to access to affordable health and dental insurance and subsequent basic preventative care. “We know through our work in the northern part of the county that immigrant families rely on health clinics like ours to stay healthy,” said Barbara Mannino, executive director of Vista Community Clinic, which provides primary health services and health education for more than 20,000 local children. “We simply need more resources to ensure all families and children in need are served. Investing in prevention makes for sound economic policy as well, given the well-documented, higher costs later on if we fail to address health issues up front.”

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