A growing number of California children aren’t receiving enough to eat or adequate health care and fear losing their housing, according to a California Budget and Policy Center report released in December.
Child Care Resource Center is working closely with lawmakers and community partners to help address these gaps in care, which are especially evident among the state’s minority populations.
“It has been abundantly clear from the beginning of the pandemic the children and families we serve are being dramatically impacted,” CCRC Chief Strategy Officer Donna Sneeringer said. “We have focused our advocacy efforts on communicating the needs of children, families and providers to ensure our elected officials have the information they need to make critical decisions.”
The pandemic has revealed concerning holes in state and federal systems designed to protect the most vulnerable populations, namely children. Health coverage is more important now than ever but research shows the rate of uninsured children is growing. Newly released data shows about 334,000 California children do not have health care, an increase from 3.1 percent in 2016 to 3.6 percent in 2019.
About 1 in 4 California low-income households with children surveyed from late August through October of this year reported not having enough food to eat, according to information from the U.S. Census Bureau. The report finds that COVID-19 has worsened the already disparate rate of food insecurity among LatinX and Black families. Inadequate nutrition has a stronger effect on children, whose developing minds and bodies depend on a quality food supply.
According to data supplied by First 5 California, most LatinX and Black families with children are experiencing difficulty paying for basic expenses like food and rent. The report finds 8 in 10 LatinX families and 7 in 10 Black families are struggling to cover these costs. The state faced a housing crisis even before the pandemic began but now, even more families are living in unstable situations. Research shows that financial hardship can have harmful effects on children’s long-term health, development, education, and economic security in early adulthood.
Nearly 270,000 of California’s public school students age K-12 experienced homelessness in 2018 to 2019, according to the report. Minority students were more likely to be without housing, with 69.8 percent of the affected students identifying as LatinX. Children who experience homelessness are more likely to be chronically absent from school, struggle academically, and have difficulty with distance learning.
Many COVID-19 relief measures aimed to feed families and ensure they remain housed have been extended through the end of January. CCRC supports the authors of this report in recommending California lawmakers ensure COVID-19 eviction protections are maintained amid the stay-at-home order. Policy that addresses food insecurity and nutrition benefits, known as SNAP, are also critical to childhood development. Policymakers are implored to protect and extend the health care provided under the Affordable Care Act so every person can see a doctor, get medication, and receive care before emergencies happen.