This Children’s Week, Let’s Ensure No Child Goes Uncounted

Poverty & Family Economics

Photo by Eye for Ebony on Unsplash

Every child in America deserves the chance to thrive. Yet we know too often, children in our society are underfunded and underprioritized. The sad reality in America is that our child poverty rates remain consistently higher than in peer countries. Many public schools remain dramatically underfunded, infant and maternal mortality rates continue to rise, and the share of federal spending on children is at an all-time low.

Children in the United States were already facing serious problems before the dual challenges of the coronavirus and economic crises hit earlier this year. COVID-19 has only exposed and exacerbated these ugly truths. Columbia University predicts that child poverty could rise by as much as 53 percent as a result of the outbreak. And forty percent of households with children under 12 are struggling to put food on the table.

All children have been affected by COVID in one way or another. However, we know children of color are being hit the hardest, due to racial injustice in our poverty rates, health care access, education, employment, wages & income, housing, and other systems.

Acknowledging the need to prioritize our nation’s children, Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama — as well as a bipartisan, bicameral group of Members of Congress — have all previously recognized National Children’s Day. Taking these efforts one step further, First Focus on Children hosts a full week of events in June to amplify the issues most important to our nation’s children and call on our country’s lawmakers to act in their best interest.

This year we are celebrating our Third Annual Children’s Week. Running from June 14th to June 20th we have a slate of virtual events, including a webinar on addressing child poverty in the wake of COVID and conversations with a bipartisan set of lawmakers on the need to strengthen the Children’s Health Insurance Program, expand the Child Tax Credit, and increase federal investments for children. 

Underpinning the success of any effort to improve child well-being in the United States is ensuring that every child is counted in the 2020 Census, currently underway through October 31st. The level of funding and resources going to children, whether on the federal, state, or local level, is largely determined by how many children are identified in the decennial census. For example, 36 states have collectively lost $550 million each year from just five programs that serve children due to the large undercount of young children (ages 0-4) in the 2010 Census.

Currently, the 2020 Census self-response rate is just over 60 percent, however it varies a lot across the country and is lowest in neighborhoods with a very high risk of undercounting young children. And while the self-response rate is important, we also know that many children missed in the 2010 Decennial Census were in households that actually returned the survey but left off the children in the household. New research from the Population Reference Bureau, taking this into account, finds that 25 percent of young children live in a neighborhood where they are at very high risk of being undercounted, with rates even higher for children of color – 48 percent of young Black children and 38 percent of Latino children.

So while there is much work to do to ensure that every child is counted, we luckily have the tools. The new Population Reference Bureau research is accompanied by maps and spreadsheets to help advocates pinpoint exactly where response rates are lagging for children in 689 large counties in the United States, and these resources will be updated frequently with new response rate data through the end of the self-response phase.

Children’s Week provides a critical opportunity to take action. First Focus on Children is proud to be a co-chair of the Count All Kids committee, which has a plethora of materials to help advocates effectively message to families the importance of returning the Census form and including all children in their household on their form, including any children staying temporarily with them who have no permanent address elsewhere.

This Children’s Week, let’s ensure no child goes uncounted.  To learn more, visit www.countallkids.org and https://firstfocus.org/news/childrens-week-2020 and join the discussion using the hashtags ChildrensWeek2020 and #CountAllKids.

This blog also appears on the Count All Kids committee website.