Supporting Black Kids in California: an Anti-Racist Policy Vision

Preamble –

The purpose of this Policy Vision is to provide framing and context for our organizational, whole child policy priorities and better articulate how those priorities are meant to fulfill that vision as a reality throughout our society and institutions. The lives of Black and brown children are deeply impacted by institutional and structural racism. We are attuned to the fact that our work to advocate for policy change on behalf of children has the potential to ignore or exacerbate these realities if we are not intentionally and consistently affirming our values to fight for racial justice.

It is critical that we, as children’s advocates, advance equitable solutions to break down systemic barriers for children, and address the intersectional impacts of racism, poverty, immigration status, gender, sexual orientation, and foster care system involvement that prevent children from reaching their full potential. Going forward, we are committed to being even more explicit and purposeful in naming and dismantling the policies and practices that enable racial inequity. As part of our Policy Vision we intend to name key racial inequities that are perpetuated by systemic racism and social injustice. In so doing, we seek to demonstrate how our policy priorities, both within each of our issue areas and collectively, address those inequities that are within the scope and capacity of our organization to influence and change. Moreover, in our Policy Vision, where possible, we will speak to the specific needs of particular communities that are marginalized and disenfranchised by systemic racism and social injustice.

Policy Vision Statement –

On the heels of numerous unjust killings of Blacks at the hands of police, the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, and the civil unrest and protests that followed and gripped our nation, brought widespread, sustained, and long overdue focus to the long-standing, systemic racism that is deeply embedded in our society and culture.

George Floyd was just one of the far too many Black and brown Americans brutalized by police. We know California children, many of whom suffer because of systemic racism and the resulting inequities, are watching and learning from our response to these tragic injustices. As children’s advocates, we have a responsibility to instill anti-racist, pro-Black narratives; work to break down systems of racial oppression and injustice; and ensure our public policies and institutional practices are effective toward that end.

Systemic racism is the primary obstacle to all children – and Black kids in particular – growing up in a just society and reaching their full potential. In our fight for equitable and high-quality early childhood, education, health, and child welfare programs, Children Now stands in solidarity with partners and communities throughout the state in support of dismantling systems and policies that actively harm all kids, but especially Black kids.

While racism in our society affects many people, the history and experience of Black Americans is unique and deeply rooted in the origins of our nation and evolution of our institutions. To be clear, anti-Black violence and racism did not begin with the murder of George Floyd and the countless others who suffered similar fates before him. Nor did this injustice come to the forefront with the 2016 election. Systemic racism and violence have confronted Black people since the first enslaved Africans were brought to Jamestown in 1619 and to the region that would become the United States as early as 1526.

In addition to the brutality of 300 years of slavery, systemic racism was imbedded within the architecture of our nation, codified through policies intentionally designed to exploit/discriminate against people of color. These policies included nearly 100 years of Jim Crow laws that enforced segregated and inferior housing, health care, education, and employment opportunities along with disenfranchisement and systemic racism through courts and policing. This also includes the present day discrimination and systemic inequities created by the practice of “redlining” communities and denying would-be homeowners access to mortgage loans based on the color of their skin, historic and present day gerrymandering of voting districts to isolate voters based on race, drawing school district boundary lines to segregate communities, starkly disparate policing and sentencing practices in the justice system and denying non-white students admission to institutions of higher education. Examples of outcomes facing California’s children today, as a result of these barriers include the following:

  • Food & Nutrition: The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare existing racial inequities. For example, in May 2020, 30% of Black Californian households with kids were food insecure, compared to 23% Latino, 5% white, and 4% Asian households with kids.1
  • Decriminalization of Youth: According to the most recent available data, 711 out of every 100,000 Black children enter the California juvenile justice system; this is far above the number of Native (196), Latino (180), white (76), and Asian (26) children per 100,000.2
  • Income & Wealth: Too many children are living in poverty in California. Among all race/ethnicity categories, Black children are most likely to live in poverty (29%), compared to Native American (26%), Latino (24%), Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (14%), Asian (10%, and white (9%) children.3
  • Education: Despite recent progress, Black students are still more likely than other students to be suspended from school for “willful defiance,” a subjective category of overly broad and minor offenses. 4 Due to significant opportunity gaps created by systemic racism, Black students have the lowest academic achievement levels at 3rd grade English Language Arts and 5th grade Mathematics. 5
  • Housing: A national survey of youth found that that certain populations – specifically, Black and Hispanic youth; young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender; young parents; and those who have not completed high school – are more likely to experience homelessness than their peers. 6 While the 2010 U.S. Census shows about 6.5% of Californians identify as Black or African American, Black individuals account for nearly 40% of the state’s homeless people.7
  • Family Supports: California is a leader among the states in paid family leave policy. However, wage replacement is (at most) 70% of normal income, and families who are low-income, families of color, and single-parent families are much less likely than other families to leverage paid family leave in the state. 8
  • Child Welfare: Black children in the California child welfare system stay in foster care for longer periods than children from other racial/ethnic groups. The median length of stay for Black children is 18% or 90 days longer than for white children, while Native American children stay 12% longer and Latino children stay 7% longer than white children. Asian/Pacific Islander children in foster care experience 19% shorter lengths of stay compared to white children. 9
  • Civic Engagement & Participation: Across all secondary grade levels in California, Black students were the least likely of all groups to report feeling connected and engaged in their school. 10
  • Health & Wellness: Black infants are much more likely to die in the first year of life than other Californian infants. During 2015-2017 (average), the infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births in California was highest for Black infants (8.4), followed by American Indian/Alaska Natives (6.4), whites (4.1) and Asian/Pacific Islanders (3.3). 11

Given this historic and persistent discrimination, punctuated by movements like Black Lives Matter, whose mission (in part) is to “…build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities”… and “…create a world where Black lives are no longer systematically targeted for demise…” we believe this moment demands that we state in no uncertain terms how we will do our part to right those wrongs and pursue with intention and urgency the systemic changes needed to achieve racial justice.

With that commitment, Children Now emphatically avows this Anti-Racist Policy Vision. In doing so, we want to provide clarity and connectivity to the reforms and investments we champion and articulate how those policy changes address the inequities we seek to eradicate. Moreover, we pursue this objective with humility, authenticity, and sincerity, and we embrace our role to work with urgency and in partnership toward this end.

  1. Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on California Children’s Well-Being, July 2020,
  2. 2020 California Children’s Report Card, page 71
  3. KidsData, Children in Poverty, by Race/Ethnicity, 2017,127,331,171,345,357,324,369,362,360,337,364,356,217,328,354,320,339,334,365,343,367,344,366,368,265,349,361,4,273,59,370,326,341,338,350,342,359,363,340,335&tf=95&ch=7,11,726,10,72,9,73,1298
  4. 2020 California Children’s Report Card, page 23
  5. 2020 California Children’s Report Card, page 23
  6. Chapin Hall, “One in 10 Young Adults Experience Homelessness During One Year,” November 2017,
  7. 2020 California Children’s Report Card, page 23
  8. 2020 California Children’s Report Card, page 50
  9. California Child Welfare Indicators Project, UC Berkeley,, January 2018 – December 2018
  10. California Healthy Kids Survey,
  11. National Center for Health Statistics,