FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Tuesday, January 28 at 8:00am PST

Contact: Maria Mejia, (510) 763-2444 x108, [email protected]


New Report Grades California on How Well It Supports Kids

Data Shows California Trails Behind Other States in Many Areas of Child Well-Being


Oakland, CA –While California is a leader in so many areas, like defending vulnerable communities from harsh federal policies or protecting the environment, the state ranks near the bottom of the country on many issues affecting children, according to the latest edition of the 2020 California Children’s Report Card released today by Children Now.


The Report Card grades the state on its ability to support better outcomes for kids, from prenatal to age 26. It includes data, a policy progress report, and policy recommendations on 31 issues within five domains affecting children: health, education, family supports, child welfare, and adolescents and transition-age youth.


There are bright spots in the report where California has excelled in supporting kids, such as children’s health insurance, graded an A, and paid family leave, graded a B-. The report credits the state’s concentrated efforts in these areas, such as its aggressive implementation of the Affordable Care Act and extending health care coverage to children who are undocumented.


However, there are far too many low grades, including behavioral health care (D), child care (D+), and caring professionals in schools (F). According to the report, the state has failed to prioritize kids in policymaking and funding decisions in these areas. Its recommendations include developing a comprehensive plan to overhaul the current behavioral health system for children and youth, tripling the number of infants and toddlers that receive state-funded child care services, and significantly increasing funding for more caring professionals at schools.


“Overall, California’s policymakers have earned a 1.70 GPA in this Report Card, which is unacceptable,” said Ted Lempert, President of Children Now. “California’s children face far too many structural barriers – the impacts of racism first and foremost, as well as the intersectional effects of poverty, immigration status, gender, sexual orientation, and foster care system involvement – to receiving the quality supports they need to thrive. Now is the time for policymakers to take swift action to enact a whole-child policy agenda that properly prioritizes children.”


The report highlights how poorly California fares when compared to other states in a number of child well-being issue areas. For example, California is among the worst of all state in ensuring well-child screenings for Medicaid participants; ranks 39th in meeting research-aligned benchmarks of quality preschool and transitional kindergarten; and is among the lowest in the nation for K-12 per-pupil expenditures.


“Although it’s disheartening to see California’s low rankings in many of these issue areas, we know that our policymakers can start making investments and reforms s today to change those results and be the leader in children’s well-being,” Lempert said.

Additional highlights include:

  • Health. Although California has made effective strides in improving children’s health, most notably in increasing the percentage of children with health coverage to 97%, the state must continue its work to promote efficient care with an emphasis on prevention, early detection and intervention, and disease management so all kids can grow, learn, and thrive.
  • Education. California continues to make modest progress in improving education outcomes for kids. However, California schools 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. California ranks 50th of all states in teacher-to-student ratios.
  • Family Supports. All families need support, especially in a child’s early years, yet data shows that most families in California lack the needed income and supports. Despite research proving the benefits of voluntary home visiting programs, home visiting is not reaching enough California families. As many as two-thirds of California families with babies and toddlers could benefit from home visiting, yet current programs reach fewer than 2%.
  • Child Welfare. Many children and youth in foster care experience frequent placement changes, adding to their trauma. For example, 44% of youth in foster care for 2 years or longer experience 3 or more placements. This can be incredibly disruptive to a child’s well-being. California leaders must ensure children and youth in foster care and their caregivers have access to the resources, supports, and services they need to build and maintain strong family relationships.
  • Adolescents and Transition Age Youth. Youth voter participation rates are low nationwide; California is in the bottom third of states that reported youth voter turnout from the high-profile November 2016 election. A recent survey shows that California youth are much more likely to vote after direct contact by a candidate or voter rights organization. Yet, youth of color are less likely to be contacted, with the highest rates of contact at 61% for youth who are White and lowest at 44% for youth who are Black.
  • Connected Cradle to Career Systems. California has no meaningful longitudinal education data system from early ed through higher ed, and it also lacks many of the informational systems that parents/caregivers need to better understand how their kids are doing and to access needed services. Policymakers must ensure that all government-run systems focused on kids are linked, in order to increase coordination and support to children and their families.


The 2020 California Children’s Report Card can be found 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 3,500 direct service, parent, civil rights, faith-based and community groups dedicated to improving children’s well-being.