CALIFORNIA, USA — California is home to more than 9 million children, many of them hungry, poor and struggling to access health care and quality education.
Child advocates were hoping for change with Gov. Gavin Newsom and his attention to early childhood development and education, plans for universal preschool and desire to give extra funding for children’s programs.
But that was before the COVID-19 pandemic raised the stakes for children, eliminating many of their parents’ jobs and moving school online. That was before extreme heat and record-breaking wildfires ravaged the state and drove many families from their homes.
Now Newsom’s plans are on hold indefinitely as the state faces deep financial woes. The state ranks 35th in overall child well-being, which includes education, economic security and health, according to a review in 2019 by the Casey Foundation.
Already, the pandemic has illuminated many disparities among California children—from wi-fi connectivity to having parents available to help with online learning during the day. Some of the state’s most vulnerable kids have seen their parents and grandparents get sick and die from the infection, especially in Black and Latino communities.
“California prides itself on being a progressive state, a model for other states,” said Ted Lempert, president of the nonprofit advocacy group Children Now. “And when it comes to kids, it’s just not.”
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