FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Wednesday, January 12 at 8:00 a.m. PT
Contact: Carter Ashforth, (510) 763-2444 x108, [email protected]
New California Children’s Report Card Grades State Support for Kids Before and During Pandemic
Data Underscores that California Needs to Make Kids the Top Priority
Oakland, CA – Children Now released its 2022 California Children’s Report Card today, painting a mostly grim picture of the state’s support for its 13.5 million kids.
The Report Card grades the State on its ability to support better outcomes for kids, across health, education, family supports, child welfare, and overall well-being, from prenatal to age 26. It includes statewide data, a policy progress report, and Pro-Kid policy recommendations on 32 issues that affect California children and their families.
This year’s Report Card highlights some good news. For example, state leaders earned an A- for preschool & transitional kindergarten, due in part to a historic down payment towards a better, more comprehensive early learning and child care system that will impact generations to come; and an A- for health coverage, largely thanks to California’s continued leadership in ensuring health coverage for all children, including undocumented kids.
However, there are far too many low grades in the report, including grades in the D range for behavioral health, health care accountability, child care, adults on campus, and supports for students in foster care and unaccompanied homeless youth, among others. The Report Card’s recommendations include creating a comprehensive plan to improve children’s mental health outcomes, at least tripling the number of infants and toddlers that receive state-funded child care subsidies, and ensuring that young people are prioritized in all housing policies and providing additional funding to strengthen youth access to a continuum of housing options.
“Overall, California’s policymakers earned a 1.86 GPA in this Report Card, which is unacceptable,” said Ted Lempert, President of Children Now.
The Report Card highlights how the COVID-19 pandemic has been hardest 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. The long-term impact of this pandemic is still uncertain, but for too many kids, it will take years to recover what has been lost.
“As we enter the third year of this pandemic, our communities are continuing to deal with difficult times — kids’ mental health struggles are at a crisis level, our child care, education, and health providers are overwhelmed, and many families are forced to make choices between food, health care, child care, and other basic necessities,” said Lempert. “Our leaders need to take bold, long-term steps to address the crises and put kids first.”
Additional highlights include:
- Health. Children’s use of preventive care fell significantly more than adults’ during the pandemic, and still hasn’t recovered. Even before the pandemic, the State was not doing a good enough job – only 26% of infants in Medi-Cal had well-baby visits in 2019. In addition, too many families are paying monthly premiums for Medi-Cal coverage for their kids when that money is needed just to make ends meet.
- Education. Learning lag and chronic absenteeism (missing 10% or more days of school) are pressing issues that escalated over the past two years. Additionally, California schools continue to have fewer educators, counselors, nurses, support staff, and administrators than almost any other state in the country — and the professionals on campus do not reflect the diversity of the students served.
- Family Supports. California is the most expensive state to raise a child, and it has nearly the highest number of children in poverty of all states, with families of color with children being more likely to report economic hardship. Public programs do have a significant impact: more than one million more children would live in poverty if not for safety net programs like California’s Earned Income Tax Credit and CalWORKs.
- Child Welfare. Youth in foster care often experience frequent home placement changes, with nearly 40% placed in three or more different homes during a 24-month period. However, placement stability could improve with the help of the recently launched Family Urgent Response System, a 24/7 statewide hotline and mobile response system to provide immediate, trauma-informed support for youth in foster care.
- Adolescents and Transition Age Youth. Despite the pandemic, California’s young people registered to vote in record numbers in 2020 and are continuing to show increased public engagement. But there are still more opportunities to empower youth, especially young people of color, through improved civics education and a wider variety of opportunities for leadership.
The 2022 California Children’s Report Card can be found here: https://www.childrennow.org/portfolio-posts/2022-california-childrens-report-card.
To learn more, please join the Children Now 2022 California Children’s Report Card webinar on Thursday, January 20 at 10:30 a.m. PT. Register here.
Children Now is a non-partisan, whole-child research, policy development and advocacy organization dedicated to promoting children’s health and education in California. The organization also leads The Children’s Movement of California, a network of more than 4,600 direct service, parent, civil rights, faith-based and community groups dedicated to improving children’s well-being.