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Children Now California County Scorecard 2016-17

Children Now California County Scorecard 2016-17
Posted on December 6, 2017 by CHS

Each year, the nonprofit advocacy organization, Children Now, compiles data on a wide range of issues relevant to the health and wellbeing of children and families. The report provides information to help improve outcomes for children in the state by informing the development of best practices, fostering collaboration, and supporting action by communities, policymakers, and advocates. The 2016-17 California County Scorecard of Children's Well-Being tracks 28 key indicators, including education, health, child welfare, and economic well-being across 58 counties, over time, and by race and ethnicity. 

How Do Children in California Fare Overall?

California ranks 38th out of 50 states in overall children’s well-being and 49th in children’s economic well-being. One in four children in California lives in poverty. California is one of the most diverse states in the nation; nearly half of the state’s children live in immigrant families (91% are U.S. citizens). Twenty-two percent of students in the state are English Learners. Low-income and minority children in California experience large disparities in well-being and a widening opportunity gap. By ensuring all children have what they need to thrive, California can lower poverty rates and inequality in the future. To accomplish this, California will need good public policy and increased investments from the public sector.

Findings from the California 2016-17 Scorecard of Children’s Well-Being:

1) Infant and Toddler Care: (Grade: D) Only 9% of low-income families with children age 0-2 receive state subsidies to help them pay for child care. Four percent of low-income families with three-year-old children receive subsidies, and 70% of low-income families with four-year-olds receive subsidies. State subsidies can cover as little as 55% of the cost of child care. Nearly half of infants and toddlers in the state live in low-income families. The majority of the 300,000 income-eligible children in California do not receive state subsidies.

2) Preschool: (Grade: B-) California spends 12 times as much on our prisoners than on our preschoolers. Only 19% of all three-year-olds and 32% of four-year-olds in California are enrolled in public preschools. Cost remains a significant barrier to enrollment. The California state preschool system ranks below 36 other states on quality benchmarks. The state program recently expanded by 21,000 spaces and reimbursement rates were increased to allow providers to improve the quality of their programs.

3) Kindergarten Transition: (Grade: B) California is not one of the 29 states that collects data on kindergarten readiness, a key factor in preparing children for success in school. Only 45% of 3rd graders in California read at grade level. California should adopt a standard kindergarten readiness assessment tool.

4) K-12 Funding: (Grade: C-) California lags behind other states in per pupil spending, spending only $10,120 per student compared to the national average of over $12,000. California ranks 48th in student-to-teacher ratios.

5) Local Control Funding Formula: (Grade: B-) The new Local Control Funding Formula for funding California’s public K-12 schools targets those students most in need of support and provides those schools serving a large number of high need students with extra funding.

6) State Standards: (Grade: B-) California’s new standards for K-12 education include the Common Core and the Next Generation Science Standards. These standards will help ensure that kids are graduating high school with the problem solving and critical thinking skills they need to succeed in college and career.

7) STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math): (Grade: C) California has a shortage of qualified workers for STEM jobs. California needs 435,000 more workers who are qualified for these positions. Currently, not all schools offer courses in critical STEM areas; 25% of students attend schools that are not offering calculus, 15% attend schools that do not offer physics, and 10% attend schools that do not offer chemistry.

8) K-12 Outcomes: (Grade: D) Over 56,000 students in California drop out of high school each year. Only 42% of high school graduates complete the minimum entrance requirements to attend a University of California or California State University school. Only 44% of students across all grade levels meet or exceed state standards for English Language Arts and only 33% meet or exceed the math standards.

9) Teacher Training and Evaluation: (Grade: D) In low-income schools, the percentage of novice teachers, those with less than three years’ experience, is twice that of high-income school districts. The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing is working to improve teacher preparation.

10) Afterschool and Summer Learning: (Grade: B-) California has one of the highest participation rates in the county for afterschool  programs, serving 1.7 million low-income children; however, 49% of students lack access to state funded afterschool programs.

11) School Climate and Discipline: (Grade: C) California has made great progress in reducing suspension rates, however racial and economic disparities persist among those students who are suspended. Only 45% of students in California feel highly connected to their school.

12) Chronic Absence: (Grade: C+) Ten percent of kindergarteners are chronically absent from school. Low-income children are 30% more likely to be chronically absent than their peers. The state’s current system for tracking student attendance does not include a way to track chronic absences.

13) Developmental Screenings and Interventions: (Grade: C-) Fewer than one in three young children in California receive timely developmental screenings. There is a shortage of specialized early intervention services in the state and the complexity of the system is difficult for parents to navigate. State legislators have pushed the California Health and Human Services Agency to improve the quality and accessibility of developmental and behavioral screenings as well as the referral process.

14) Health Insurance: (Grade: A-) In 2015, only 4% of children in California were uninsured. Between 2013 and 2014, 176,000 kids gained health insurance. In 2015, California expanded MediCal to income-eligible undocumented children, further lowering the number of uninsured. Three out of four uninsured children in California are eligible for public coverage. In many cases, these children are not enrolled due to fear of deportation.

15) Health Care Access: (Grade: C) California’s Medicaid program provides worse health care access compared to other states. In California, only 25% of children that need specialized care are able to access such care. California’s ratio of full-time primary care Medi-Cal doctors is 42 per 100,000 people enrolled in the program, which is well below the recommended ratio of 70 per 100,000. The state needs to increase provider rates for Medi-Cal providers and reduce administrative burdens in order to increase the number of providers serving Medi-Cal patients.

16) Oral Health: (Grade: D+) Only 35% of children age 0-6 in California receive a preventative dental visit. In half of California’s counties, there are no pediatric dental providers who see patients with Denti-Cal (the Medi-Cal dental coverage).

17) Mental and Behavioral Health: (Grade: D+) Mental health is the most common reason for emergency room visits from children. Only 31% of adolescents in California and only 40% of children under six with emotional, developmental, or behavioral problems get the supports they need.

18) Obesity Prevention and Nutrition: (Grade: C-) Of the 3.5 million children in California who are eligible for free or reduced price meals, 1.1 million are not participating in the program. Low-income children face significant barriers to eating well and exercising. Nearly one in four children in California faces food insecurity.

19) Childhood Trauma and Resilience: (Grade: D-) An estimated 18% of children in California have had at least two Adverse Childhood Experiences during their life, putting them at increased risk for long-term mental and physical health problems, and impacting their brain development and academic success. There are several statewide initiatives working to address the issue through policies that work across early childhood, health, education, child welfare, juvenile justice, and other systems.

20) Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention: (Grade: D) By the age of 18, one in four people in California has been the victim of maltreatment. Nearly 80,000 children experience abuse or neglect each year.

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