Compiling statewide data for public use, the new KIDS COUNT in Delaware Fact Book's central theme is obtaining an accurate and complete count in Census 2020. Research has shown that 1 million of America's youngest residents were not counted in the last census- the worst net undercount for any age group.
"With the census less than a year away, now is the time for us to plan and prepare," said Janice Barlow, director of KIDS COUNT in Delaware. "Census data are used for so much-- representation, funding allocations and planning. Decisions for things like neighborhood improvements, public health, education and transportation are all made based on this kind of data."
In Delaware, more than $500 million flows to the state each year from the 10 largest federal programs that serve children. When kids aren't counted, communities are in danger of receiving less than their fair share of federal dollars for programs like Head Start, school lunches, public health insurance and child care- programs and services that help young children in low-income families get a healthy start in life.
The 2019 Fact Book shows that public investment and policy choices make a difference in the outcomes kids experience. An accurate census is essential for that. According to Barlow, "while the census is ultimately a federal responsibility, states have a lot to gain or lose based on response rates. Therefore, Delaware and its communities have an incentive to ensure a successful local count." KIDS COUNT in Delaware offers the following recommendations to achieve a more accurate census:
- Fund 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.
- Expand the pool of trusted messengers: Broaden the circle of people (from early care and education providers to members of the clergy) and organizations (from public schools to libraries to the business community) who can provide outreach in their communities to reach hard-to-count households and encourage participation among people most likely to be missed.
- Address the digital divide: Provide online access for all families to participate in the census
- Address 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.
It is evident that these recommendations will cost Delaware and communities dollars – but the gain of federal funding for important, vital programs more than makes up for census advocacy costs.