A survey of kids’ well-being and roadmap for the future
By Ted Lempert
January 12, 2022
Today, I am excited to announce the release of the 2022 California Children’s Report Card, the latest edition of the state’s most comprehensive report on children’s health, education, and well-being. This year’s Report Card grades California on 32 key children’s issues, from prenatal to age 26, and includes data related to the impact of the COVID pandemic on California kids.
The 2022 Report Card highlights some good news: key areas of improvement in the state’s ability to meet the needs of California’s children with increased funding and policy advances. For example, state leaders earned an A- for Preschool & Transitional Kindergarten, due in part to a historic down payment towards adding an extra grade for all 4-year-olds by 2025, and an A- for health coverage, thanks to California’s national leadership in ensuring insurance for all children, including undocumented kids.
However, there are far too many low grades in the Report Card this year, including in behavioral health (D+), health care accountability (D-), child care (D+), adults on campus (D), unaccompanied homeless youth (D+), and supports for students in foster care (D), among others. As we approach the third year of the pandemic, we’re seeing the disproportionate impact it is having on kids, particularly children of color, children growing up in poverty, and children in foster care – many of whom have lost their caregivers, endured months of isolation, and been deprived of basic education and health resources – and the grades in the Report Card reflect this unacceptable situation.
While these low grades are disappointing, we know that California has the ability to improve outcomes for kids when the State puts them first. We’ve seen it before, and the few high grades in the latest Report Card demonstrate that we can do it again. But we need to be consistent. Now is the time for state leaders to take the bold, long-term steps needed to ensure that every child in California has access to the full range of quality supports that they need to grow up healthy, educated, safe, and prepared for the future.
Let’s work together so that the next Report Card is one we would be proud to see our kids bring home.
How did the State do? Grades range from an A- in Health Insurance to Ds for Health Care Accountability, Preventive Screenings, and Behavioral Health Care.
Bright Spots: California has made remarkable progress toward ensuring health coverage for every child, including by extending Medi-Cal to undocumented income-eligible children in 2016, and youth ages 19-to-25 in 2020.
Areas for Improvement: Children’s health care must be strongly prioritized as California begins to emerge from the pandemic. Our kids need a health system that promotes efficient care with an emphasis on prevention, early detection and intervention, and closing racial/ethnic gaps — allowing all kids to grow, learn, and thrive.
How did the State do? Education grades could use improvement. While the State received an A- for Preschool & Transitional Kindergarten; School Climate: Connections with Adults on Campus, Early Intervention & Special Education, and Child Care all earned grades in the D range.
Bright Spots: Expanding early education, by increasing access to universal Transitional Kindergarten for all 4-year-olds in public schools by the 2025-26 school year, is a critical step to support long-term educational success.
Areas for Improvement: The pandemic has disproportionally impacted students who have historically faced systemic barriers and have additional and unique learning needs. We don’t yet know the full extent of COVID-19’s impact on student achievement – but what we do know is alarming. California must ensure that every child, from early childhood through young adulthood, has access to rigorous, engaging, and relevant learning experiences, taught by well-supported, skilled educators, in safe environments.
How did the State do? With a B in Income Assistance for Low-Income Families, a C in Paid Family Leave, and a C- in Voluntary, Evidence-Based Home Visiting, California can do better.
Bright Spots: State leaders continued to take positive steps in the 2021-22 State Budget to reduce child poverty including: additional Golden State Stimulus payments that include undocumented Californians, increasing funding for child savings accounts, funding for a California Universal Basic Income Pilot Program, and making important CalWORKs reforms that benefit pregnant people and families experiencing homelessness.
Areas for Improvement: California’s home visiting program capacity compared to need is among the worst in the country. The state only serves a fraction of families who might benefit from home visiting – less than half of the national average.
How did the State do? With a C average, California is not doing its best for the more than 61,000 children and youth in the foster care system.
Bright Spots: The Family Urgent Response System (FURS) launched during the pandemic and is now providing immediate, trauma-informed support, in all 58 counties, on a 24/7 basis during moments of instability or crisis.
Areas for Improvement: For children and youth who cannot remain safely at home and must enter foster care, the State must ensure access to stable and nurturing foster homes, trauma-informed services, and targeted, high-quality educational supports to help them heal and thrive.
Adolescents and Transition Age Youth
How did the State do? Grades are in the C range for Relationships and Sexual Health Education, and Opportunities for Youth Leadership & Engagement, and both Supports for Unaccompanied Homeless Youth and Decriminalization of Youth earned D+s.
Bright Spots: The newly established California Youth Empowerment Commission – consisting of 13 young people between the ages of 14-25, at least half of whom must have experienced homelessness, foster care, disabilities, or juvenile incarceration – will advise the Governor on youth issues starting in 2022.
Areas for Improvement: Programs designed for children are often no longer appropriate for these young people, but programs designed for adults may not meet their unique needs. By improving targeted supports for adolescents (ages 10 to 19) and transition age youth (ages 18 to 25), the State can help young people transition to a healthy and successful adulthood.