Coalition Spotlight: Children Now

by Opportunity Nation   •  

This is a monthly feature that shines a light on the work of one of Opportunity Nation’s Coalition members. This month, we’re highlighting Children Now. If you’re a part of the Opportunity Nation Coalition and you’d like to be a part of our Coalition Spotlight, please contact Juanita Tolliver.

What are Children Now’s current priorities and how do they align with Opportunity Nation’s goal of restoring the American Dream?
Children Now is a whole-child research, policy development and advocacy organization dedicated to improving the lives of children from before birth through age 26. We employ a game-changing, proven, scalable model to improve children’s advocacy and ensure that all kids have the supports they need to reach their full potential.

Given the mounting research base pointing to the effectiveness of quality prenatal and early childhood investments in supporting vulnerable children to reach their full potential, Children Now has brought additional resources and focus to this critical age group. Research shows the achievement gap is strongly present when a child enters kindergarten and is improved only marginally through high school graduation. Addressing the gap before age five is critical to downstream success.

To elevate policy goals and opportunities that policymakers, coalitions and others can focus on to bridge the gap before age five, Children Now recently released a prenatal-to-age-3 state level policy agenda captured in the report, “Starting Now: A Policy Vision for Supporting the Healthy Growth and Development of Every California Baby.” The report serves as a benchmark for local and state policy advocates and community organizing efforts to advocate for the policy goals outlined in the report, which align with and support the goals in “Our Opportunity Nation,” and improve coordination of complex systems serving pregnant women, infants, toddlers and their families.

What are you working on right now?
In addition to campaigns mentioned, Children Now restarted the California STEM Network. As a project of Children Now, the California STEM Network is working to increase access to STEM curricula and instruction for youth throughout the state, with a particular emphasis on girls and kids of color.

How are you engaging young people in your work?
In order to create the large-scale changes to provide all California kids with supports and services they need to thrive, we need to create a stronger base of support for kids by breaking down the silos that exist in the children’s field and bring groups together behind advocacy efforts in a coordinated approach. The Children’s Movement – our membership-based advocacy arm – is designed to do just that. The Children’s Movement has grown to more than 1900 California-based members. Movement members receive research, policy updates, tools and resources to enable them to lead on information-sharing and advocacy efforts focused on vital children’s policy issues.

What is something you wish more people knew about Children Now’s work?
We often surprise people with the breadth and scope of issues, age groups and sectors we work on and with. People may work with us in one particular issue area and may not realize we have staff dedicated to work in a wide range of issues to ensure we are truly “Pro-Kid.” This breadth creates the opportunity to share ideas and have robust debates, leading to stronger policy proposals that address the whole child.

Do you have any guiding principles?
Children Now’s main guiding principle is “doing right by kids.” Too often, politics or considerations focused on what is right for adults are the deciding factor in policy decisions. Children Now focuses on producing concrete policy wins that improve the lives of children, reflected in our policy analysis, research, policy development and decision-making during complex policy negotiations with partners and policymakers.

What are some recent collaborations or partnerships that you’re most excited about sharing?
Until now, the voices of those concerned about children’s well-being have been disconnected, making it unnecessarily difficult for children’s policy issues to get the attention the public desires. The Children’s Movement of California is connecting all those who want to change this unfortunate dynamic by leveraging their collective force to generate the major policy changes kids need. It is open to everyone. We are just beginning to see the potential The Children’s Movement has to make kids the top priority.

What are some of your recent successes?
Children Now has prioritized efforts to support the policy goals highlighted in the “Starting Now” report, which also align with broader efforts in child welfare, K-12 education and health policy focus areas. In 2016 our team, in collaboration with key partners, secured the following successes:

  • Secured $500 million in new multi-year funding in the state budget to expand the state preschool program and raise reimbursement rates for providers;
  • Supported the Commission on Teacher Credentialing to improve content expectations and program standards for teacher and administrators to include social-emotional learning, restorative justice, personal and institutional bias, cultural responsivity, mental health and trauma, including $48 million dollars to support training in non-punitive practices;
  • Restored funding for school based sealant program, ensuring 14,000 low income elementary students receive preventive oral health care;
  • Supported efforts to secure expanded health coverage for 177,000 undocumented immigrant children and ensured foster youth who exit care at age 18 receive uninterrupted Medi-Cal coverage until age 26, benefiting 17,000 young adults (see infographic below); and
  • Secured $127.3 million in additional funding to support the Continuum of Care Reform effort, helping ensure young people who have been abused and neglected are raised in family environments rather than institutions.

Find out more about Children Now’s diverse focus areas, campaigns, research reports and fact sheets on Children Now’s website.

Opportunity Nation Opportunity Nation is a bipartisan, national campaign comprised of more than 350 cross-sector organizations working together to expand economic mobility and close the opportunity gap in America. Opportunity Nation envisions the United States as a nation where everyone – regardless of where they were born – has equal access to opportunity, economic mobility, and success at all stages of life.

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