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Wendy Cervantes's picture

This week First Focus and the Foundation for Child Development hosted a congressional briefing in cooperation with Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA) and the Congressional Asian and Pacific American Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the Congressional Black Caucus focused on improving outcomes for America’s increasingly diverse children child population. The briefing focused on the Foundation for Child Development’s new report Diverse Children: Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration in America’s New Non-Majority Generation.

This report comes out at a critical time. The demographics the U.S. are changing. Census Bureau estimates indicate that by 2018, fewer than half the children in the U.S. will be non-Hispanic White, and by 2043, Whites will no longer be the majority of the U.S. population. Children of immigrants are leading this demographic shift, now accounting for one out of every four children in the U.S.

Our children have always been considered the future of our country, yet federal and state investments fail to reflect that fact. According to the new 2013 First Focus Budget Book, the share of federal spending allocated to children’s programs is less than 8 percent, and in fact federal spending on children has dropped three years in a row. Cuts in federal spending have had a disproportionate impact on children, particularly children of color. And as the Diverse Children report reveals, it is clear that significant disparities continue to exist among children based on race-ethnicity, home-language, and immigrant status. Given that the future prosperity of our country is tied to the success of our increasingly diverse child population, it is critical that we address these disparities head-on with a set of comprehensive policies to ensure that every child has an equal shot at achieving his or her potential.

It’s important to note that when we talk about the non-majority child population and children of immigrants, we’re not talking about a homogenous group. Thus, in order for policies to be effective in reducing racial and ethnic disparities, they must be shaped through a targeted and culturally competent lens, accounting for language, immigration implications, and the effects of structural racism. We also know that policies must address the whole child, from birth to adulthood, and empower parents with the ability to meet their children’s needs and support their children’s learning.

At the briefing panelists spoke not only about the tremendous challenges ahead, but also the tremendous opportunities. Donald Hernandez of the City University of New York, principal author of Diverse Children, shared key findings from the report and made the case for crafting policies that restore equity for all children. Dr. Glenn Flores of the University of Texas Southwestern and the Children’s Medical Center Dallas discussed policy strategies for reducing racial and ethnic disparities in health care, including covering all children regardless of immigrant status, automated enrollment/renewal for Medicaid and CHIP, community-based enrollment strategies, and medical interpreter reimbursement.  Angela Capone, Director of Para Los Niños in Los Angles, discussed the need for expanding access to high-quality Pre-K programs and shared promising strategies for young Dual Language Learners. Hirokazu Yoshikawa of New York University discussed the importance passing immigration reform that addresses not only undocumented children but also the 4.5 million U.S. children living in mixed-status families by providing a path to citizenship for the majority of undocumented immigrants.

As an advocate for children and an American, I firmly believe that it’s not only a moral imperative to rise to the challenge and the embrace the opportunities that our diverse child population present us, but it’s also an economic imperative for our country as a whole.

For more information regarding the briefing, including materials and presentations, please visit this page: Congressional Briefing: Children of Immigrants and Improving Outcomes for America’s New Non-Majority Child Population

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