Data Book highlights importance of counting kids in 2020 census

NEWARK — All kids count, they really do.

To secure all available federal funding in the future, Delaware needs to make sure they’re all accounted for.

That’s why it’s so important that the 2020 census accurately portrays how many children reside in the First State.

Thanks to a $100,000 grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, decision-makers statewide will have a better understanding of the world Delaware’s children are living in.

Earlier this week, the 2018 Kids Count Data Book showed just what kids are facing as they grow up today, and how their collective future may be affected.

While Delaware receives more than $500 million annually from the 10 largest federal programs benefiting children, that could drop based on formulas that count kids for the amount of money available.

“If we don’t count children, we render their needs invisible and their futures uncertain,” said Casey Foundation President and CEO Patrick McCarthy in a news release.

“A major census undercount will result in overcrowded classrooms, shuttered Head Start programs, understaffed hospital emergency rooms and more kids without health care.”

According to the Casey Foundation, one in six of Delaware’s children through age five live in areas that might be missed by U.S. Census takers, which translates into about 17 percent. In Delaware, according to the Casey Foundation, “children of color face a higher risk of being undercounted, compounding concerns.” Also in the state, “Hispanics are the most rapidly growing population, with this growth led by youth.”

Kids Count Delaware Director Janice Barlow said the organization is focused on distributing information and materials to other nonprofits, governments, legislators, schools and any other stakeholders seeking better opportunities for all First State Children.

Ms. Barlow hopes that the push to assure a proper census count in less than two years will benefit future generations of Delawareans. The recent Kids Count data release indicated Delaware was near the middle of states nationally in economic well being, education, family and community surroundings, and health.

“We’re doing well in several areas but there are always improvements to strive for,” Ms. Barlow said. “Even though the federal resources are a great benefit, the state has to be proactive to make sure that it receives what is needed for all the children here.

“That’s why getting an accurate census count is so important. We have a year and a half before it comes in 2020, but that year and a half can go quickly.”

Findings on Delaware

Delaware findings in the data book included:

•Delaware ranks 27 overall for child well-being and showed that 20 percent fewer kids live in a household with a high housing cost burden since 2010.

•In Delaware, 17 percent of kids are in poverty, compared to 19 percent nationally.

•The percentage of Delaware kids not graduating on time has decreased by 32 percent from 2010 with 85 percent of kids in the state graduating on time.

•Delaware ranks 9 in kids without health insurance with 97 percent of kids covered.

“Public investment has an impact on the wellbeing of Delaware’s kids,” Ms. Barlow said.

“For example, state and federal investment in Medicaid and CHIP allow children in low-income families to access preventative medical care that helps them thrive.

“Continued success in health and other domains is dependent on an accurate and complete count because federal funds that support essential programs are allocated based on census data.”

More information is available online at www.aecf.org/resources/2018-kids-count-data-book/.

Ms. Barlow was encouraged by the 97 percent health insurance coverage, and a decreased number of kids living in poverty compared to 2010.

“Preventive care is such an important factor in overall health, and kids with health insurance have access to that,” she said. “Poverty is related to so many pieces of a child’s well being, including more health risks and educational opportunities, and has a ripple effect on them in a lot of ways.”

According to the Delaware Kids Count branch and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a more accurate census can be achieved by:

•Maximizing the Census Bureau’s capacity:

Federal legislators need to fully fund the census outreach effort, and the administration needs to appoint a qualified and permanent director to lead the agency, providing support for a more accurate census than in 2010.

•Funding state and local outreach: State and local governments and community organizations need to invest in educational outreach around the census to ensure that the most vulnerable communities are counted.

•Expanding the pool of trusted messengers: Broaden the circle of people (from child care providers to members of the clergy) and organizations (from public 3 schools to libraries) who can provide outreach in their communities to reach hard-to-count households and encourage participation among people most likely to be missed.

•Addressing the digital divide: Provide online access for all families to participate in the census, either in local libraries or schools.

•Addressing privacy and confidentiality concerns: Given the growing distrust and fear of online data breaches, it is critical that government officials ensure the protection of respondents’ data.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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