2021: A Year in Review

By Maya Kamath

December 17, 2021

Looking back on 2021, it’s hard to believe how far we’ve come. When this year began, Californians were still sheltering-in-place, working and learning remotely, and wondering what year two of this pandemic would have in store for us. As the months went by, bright spots emerged – schools re-opened, case rates dropped, vaccinations were made available, and we began seeing friends and loved ones in-person after a year of virtual gatherings.

While we’ve made progress in the fight against COVID-19, as we enter the third year of this pandemic, much work remains. Kids continue to face unprecedented circumstances. The mental health struggles faced by children and youth have been declared a national emergency, and too many kids are still not receiving routine immunizations, regular well-child visits, and other screenings necessary to ensure their healthy development. Additionally, while thousands of students are back in the classroom, uneven distance learning opportunities have exacerbated existing achievement gaps, and affected equitable access to quality education. We can and must do better.

In collaboration with our partners, Children Now continued to advocate tirelessly on behalf of children and their families this year. We’re proud of our wins, including securing numerous key investments in the state budget, but it’s critical that we build on these so California becomes a state where every child has the supports they need to grow up healthy, happy, and ready for the future.

Policy Highlights

By employing our whole-child, anti-racist, connector advocacy model, Children Now secured critical supports and services for California kids this year; below are a few of the highlights:

Secured Major Child Care Investments: Children Now collaborated with our partners to ensure the final 2021-22 State Budget included more than $5 billion in key investments to increase and reform provider reimbursement rates; fund 200,000 additional 0-5 slots; continue to waive family fees; fund emergency provider relief; and invest in expanding and reopening child care facilities.

Protected Children’s Health Programs Against Cuts: through Children’s Movement campaigns and other advocacy efforts, Children Now successfully protected against proposed cuts to Medi-Cal that support children’s access to health services by eliminating a planned suspension of payments. The final budget agreement eliminated the suspension of all Prop 56 dollars for payments to providers for developmental screenings, trauma screenings and trainings, well-child check-ups and dental services for kids.

Increased Investments in School-Based Mental Health: Children Now secured the expansion of the Mental Health Student Services Act (school-county partnerships), which connect schools and districts with county behavioral departments to deliver mental health services in schools. We sponsored a budget ask that resulted in $200 million, an increase of $150 million from the Governor’s January budget proposal.

Ensured $80 Million for Pandemic Assistance for Children and Youth in Foster Care – while vital support was provided for those who were diagnosed with COVID-19 and for youth in the Extended Foster Care program, youth in foster care and their caregivers were being largely overlooked in California’s pandemic response. This Children Now state budget win ensured a $1,500 per foster child payment to address needs that arose during the 15 months of the Stay-at-Home Order.

Reports and Policy Briefs

How Districts Planned for Pandemic Learning: Equity-Driven Practices and Lessons Learned from 2020 Learning Continuity and Attendance Plans – this report provides a snapshot of local education agency (LEA) planning during COVID-19, and highlights 20 recommendations that will help LEAs to meet their equity obligations to students and families, strengthen their engagement of key stakeholders, bolster the services and supports they provide to students with unique needs, and improve transparency around public education funding during and in the aftermath of this public health crisis.

Equity Starts Early: California Must Better Support Expectant Parents and Babies – this infographic highlights the impact that targeted investments can have to help prevent and mitigate threats to healthy development, including ensuring that infants and pregnant people in California get the health care, nutritious food, secure relationships, and safe environments they need.

Accountability for Medi-Cal Children’s Preventive Services: Medi-Cal Health Plans are Key to the Preventive Care Guarantee for Kids – this report highlights the urgent and bold action the Department of Health Care Services must take to hold contracted Medi-Cal health plans accountable for providing preventive health services to kids.

2021 California County Scorecard of Children’s Well-Being – an interactive tool, the Scorecard delivers data on how kids are doing in each of California’s 58 counties. The Scorecard tracks 39 indicators of children’s well-being – over time, by race/ethnicity, and relative to other counties – from prenatal to the transition to adulthood.

The Children’s Movement of California

This year, over 540 new members joined The Children’s Movement, a network of direct service, business, parent, student, civil rights, faith, and community groups across California who care about kids, and we’re ending 2021 with more than 4,600 Pro-Kid organizations (and growing)!

If you’re interested in becoming a member of the Children’s Movement – there is no cost to participate – we encourage you to learn more and sign up here!

Thank you for following us in 2021!

The Children Now offices will be closed from Dec. 23 – Jan. 2 so that we can relax and recharge with our families. We look to the new year with hope and are excited about the possibilities that 2022 brings for California kids and families.

Editor’s note: If you’d like to support our work, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to Children Now. We hope you have a healthy and happy holiday season!