2019: A Year in Review

Children Now and our partners achieved big wins for kids, but our work is far from over

By Adrienne Bell

December 16, 2019

Children Now participates in more than 90 coalitions across the state focused on key issues impacting California’s children. With our partners, we achieved 78 policy wins – across all key children’s issues, including mental, behavioral, oral and physical health, early care and education, K-12 education, higher education, and child welfare – this year. Below are a few of the highlights:

Crisis hotline for kids in foster care: In partnership with the County Welfare Directors Association of California, the County Behavioral Directors Association of California, and a coalition of child welfare and mental health stakeholders, Children Now worked to secure $15 million in the 2019-20 state budget and $30 million ongoing to establish the Family Urgent Response System, a 24/7 statewide hotline and county mobile response system that will help ensure youth in foster care and caregivers can access trauma-informed supports during critical moments.

Supports for English Learners and Dual Language Learners: Children Now, the California Association for Bilingual Education, and Californians Together secured significant investments in English Learner supports in California – $10 million for professional development for educators to learn how to address the unique needs of students who are English learners, Pre-K through grade 12.

Mental health services for children: Children Now, along with the California Council of Community Behavioral Health Agencies, California Behavioral Health Directors Association and the Born This Way Foundation, helped secure $50 million in Proposition 63 funding for school-mental health partnerships and mental health services for students.

Access to child care and preschool: Along with our early learning coalition partners, Children Now helped to expand access to early learning this year and our work yielded many tangible investments, including: $93.3 million in alternate payment vouchers (serving about 9,500 children) and $50 million in one-time funding for general childcare (serving about 3,100 children), as well as funding for an additional 10,000 preschool spaces.

Access to Medi-Cal screenings and services: The Children Now team was instrumental in securing bipartisan approval of a legislative audit into children’s access to Medi-Cal preventive services, which found that 2.4 million kids in Medi-Cal miss out on important preventive care each year because of poor access to providers and weak oversight by the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS). In response, DHCS has taken initial steps to better measure and report on children’s use of preventive health care services and hold Medi-Cal health plans to more stringent standards for delivering timely, quality health care to children.

Complete count of all kids in the 2020 Census: As a member of the Census Policy Advocacy Network coalition, we are working to ensure an accurate count in California, particularly on the hard-to-count population of young children in the 2020 Census. This year, with our partners, we helped secure an addition $84 million for Census 2020 outreach in the 2019-20 budget.

Children Now released more than a dozen infographics, research products and/or policy briefs in 2019, including: 

Screening Kids from Birth to Age 5 for Trauma – this brief focuses on children from birth to age five, outlining key principles and recommendations that California and its child-serving organizations can adopt and implement when exploring how to effectively screen children for trauma in this age group.

The Opportunity Gap for Children Across Contra Costa County – this infographic highlights the opportunity gap as it impacts children in various regions of Contra Costa County.

Not Enough Adults to Go Around: Underfunded California Schools Provide Less Support for Kids – this brief analyzes key areas like professional staffing and development, student-teacher ratios, per pupil spending, and student performance. It makes comparisons between three similar high schools in California, Illinois, and New Jersey to shine a light on how funds are spent and what California’s schools could look like if the funding level was increased.

To read these and others, please visit the Reports page on our website.

This year, more than 560 new members joined The Children’s Movement, a grassroots network of direct service, business, parent, student, civil rights, faith, and community groups who care about kids, and we’re ending 2019 with a total of more than 3,570 member organizations!

The Children’s Movement led and coordinated eight advocacy campaigns this year, and members received informational emails about key issues including the 2020 Census, immigration raids and resources, proposed changes to ‘Public Charge’ and the federal poverty line.

If you are not yet a member of the Movement, we ask that you consider joining – there is no cost and members make a real difference in the lives of millions of California kids.

In August, Children Now launched Talk the Tot, a campaign focused on educating the public about the first few years of life, the importance of early brain development and the support that families need when raising babies and toddlers:

  1. The first phase of the campaign highlighted key facts about early childhood brain and social-emotional development.
  2. In the second phase of the campaign, we asked people to share their stories about caring for children in the early years on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
  3. In the third and final phase, which concluded last week, we focused on important policy issues that impact young California families, including paid family leave, maternal health and access to developmental screenings.

While the campaign has ended, we encourage you to check out all the content from the past few months here.

We’ll be taking a brief break over the next week to celebrate the holidays and spend time with loved ones, but we are excited about the possibilities the new year brings. There’s a lot of work to be done in 2020, and at Children Now, we’re ready for the challenge!

Editor’s note: Thank you for following along in 2019! If you’d like to support our work, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to Children Now – you can do so here. We wish you a healthy and happy holiday season!