State scores poorly on Children’s Report Card

The “2022 California Children’s Report Card” by Children Now offers a snapshot of the group’s demographics and wellbeing as well as suggestions on ways the state can better support them going forward. The state is home to 8.89 million youth ages 17 and under and 4.6 million young adults ages 18 to 25.

Assessing topics in the areas of health, education, family supports, child welfare and adolescents and transition-age youth, the Report Card fittingly assigns grades to the state’s progress — or lack of progress — in supporting policies and services to help young people reach their potential.

The latest biennial report reflects challenging conditions related to the pandemic in fields like the child care system, but also highlights positive developments like investments in universal transitional kindergarten, behavioral health and community schools.

“The past two years with the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve all faced extraordinary circumstances, and far too many have lost their lives. But overall it’s been hardest on kids, particularly children of color, in poverty, or in the child welfare system,” said Children Now President Ted Lempert. “Wildfires and other environmental disasters are also wreaking particular havoc for systemically marginalized children and their families. Kids have disproportionally suffered from the isolation and economic crisis caused by the pandemic … Now more than ever, it’s time for our state leaders to address the needs of kids and step up to make them the state’s top priority.”

Members of the Black, Latino and Native American communities were hit the hardest by the public health crisis, Lempert said, as COVID-19 exacerbated longstanding inequities.

In California, 48 percent of 0- to 17-year-olds are Latino, 30 percent of that population is white, 11 percent is Asian, 5.4 percent is Black, 4.5 percent is multiracial, 0.4 percent is American Indian or Alaska Native and 0.3 percent Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.

In the age group, 37 percent are considered low-income and 47 percent are from immigrant families, according to the report. 5.46 million are enrolled in Medi-Cal. Additionally, 60,650 youth are in foster care and over 1 million are English learners in the K-12 system.

California struggles to produce optimal outcomes

If the state were a student, it would receive a C-average at best, according to grades given in the report.

Only two of the 32 subjects received A- grades — health insurance and preschool and transitional kindergarten.

The less-than-stellar marks are due to the lack of support for young people provided by state leaders, Lempert explained.

“The state is not providing enough oversight to ensure children are receiving the access to health care they need. And students who are English learners lack access to core content, bilingual instruction, and well-prepared teachers,” he said. “This lack of policy progress, along with unacceptable racial gaps highlighted in the data and our mediocre national rankings, contribute to the mostly low grades in this report.”

In the health category, food security received a C+, oral health care received a C and health care access as well as preventing trauma and supporting healing received C-s. Mental health care received a D+ and preventive screening received a D. Substance use and health care accountability both received a D-.

Under the education umbrella, expanded learning programs — which have received more attention and funding as a learning recovery tool — received a B and in higher education a B-. Education funding received a C+ and early care and education workforce a C. Earning a C- were education for dual language and English learners, STEM education, school climate: discipline and attendance, connected cradle-to-career systems, and teacher pipeline and retention. Child care and early intervention and special education was graded a D+ and school climate: connections with adults on campus a D.

For family supports, income assistance for low-income families received a B, voluntary evidence-based home visiting a C- and paid family leave a C.

Two child welfare categories — stable homes and enduring relationships as well as health care for children in foster care — got Cs and education supports for students in foster care was graded a D.

Lastly, for adolescents and transition-age youth, relationships and sexual health education got a C-, opportunities for youth leadership and engagement got a C and supports for unaccompanied homeless youth and decriminalization of youth both received a D+.

“This is the moment to seize on the progress and investments that were made this last year and commit to making California the national leader when it comes to kids’ well-being,” Lempert said. “State leaders can do that by acting on each of the Pro-Kid Agenda items included in this report. Together, we can and must ensure that every single kid in California has the supports and resources they need to reach their full potential.”