Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio Stands with Other Advocates to Prioritize Children and Families
June 7, 2021
CDF-Ohio participated in an event at the Ohio Statehouse to call on our policymakers to prioritize children and families. The current legislation proposed by the Ohio Senate would remove funding for Ohio’s broadband infrastructure, would undo years of work to rebid Ohio’s Medicaid contracts, and remove funding from Ohio’s quality childcare program, Step Up to Quality. As a member of the Ohio Children’s Budget Coalition, CDF-Ohio is proud to share in a vision of child wellbeing where all children can thrive and flourish into adulthood. Below are comments shared.
Thank you so much for joining us today.
My name is Tracy Nájera and I’m the executive director of the Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio. I’m here today representing the Ohio Children’s Budget Coalition. Established in 2018, the Ohio Children’s Budget Coalition is a partnership of 23 statewide organizations committed to advocating for meaningful legislative and budgetary decisions to create a vision of child wellbeing in Ohio.
As a coalition, we believe that our policymakers must:
- Consider childhood as a continuum spanning prenatal through age 18 and acknowledge that adolescent development continues through the early 20s, with many youth in need of additional support to successfully transition to adulthood.
- Maximize outcomes for Ohio’s children by eliminating silos and building a comprehensive, coordinated continuum of services and programs to holistically address children’s issues beyond the artificial boundaries of agencies and funding streams.
- Ensure all investments in Ohio’s children are in data- and research-driven best practice approaches, programs, and services that maximize benefits for children and families and represent an effective use of taxpayer investments.
- Go beyond “reporting out,” and take a transformational approach to create a comprehensive continuum of care for all children focused on improving child outcomes.
We believe that a budget that maintains, protects, and strengthens public resources dedicated to the wellbeing of children will lead to a flourishing Ohio. While we appreciate the policies and investments prioritizing children and families from the proposed budgets thus far, we do recognize that our state leaders can go further in adopting a budget that is more whole child-focused to meet the needs of children and families. We need our state’s leaders to choose to invest in programs that lead to thriving communities – excellent schools, accessible and high-quality child care, safe and nurturing homes and communities – rather than operating with an austerity mindset when it comes to Ohioans who are truly in need and their repeated tendencies to giving away our tax dollars to the wealthy few.
And unfortunately, the need is great.
- Prior to the pandemic, there had been a 22% decrease since 2010 in the number of children living in poverty. However, Ohio still has one in five children who living in poverty.
- Nearly 20% of Ohio children did not graduate on time prior to the pandemic, less than the national average. This should be concerning to all Ohioans and our business community. We must do better and funding education is key.
- Ohio children were less healthy in 2019 than they were in 2010. In fact, 6% more children were overweight or obese than they were in 2010. The rate of children with health insurance is higher than in 2010 but remained consistent at 5% from 2017-2019.
- In 2019, 8% more child and teen deaths occurred compared to 2010. The number of low-birth-weight babies increased from 8.5% in 2018 to 8.6% in 2019 equating to about 11,500 babies in Ohio potentially facing serious health challenges.
- The number of parents who do not have full-time year-round employment is still high, at 26%. Those who lack a secure form of employment could easily find themselves out of work and consequently without health insurance.
Survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey from last year add to the story of Ohio’s children and families in this moment:
- In 2020, 23% of households with children reported feeling down, depressed or hopeless, and the responses didn’t show any improvement in March of 2021.
- During the pandemic, 28% of Black households in Ohio with children sometimes or often did not have enough food to eat, compared to 11% of white families.
- Similarly, with housing insecurity, 43% of Latino or Hispanic families and 42% of Black families had little or no confidence in their ability to pay their next rent or mortgage payment compared to 15% of white families.
- Nearly half of Ohio households where at least one household member planned to take classes from a college, university, community college, trade school or other occupational school in fall of 2020 took fewer classes or cancelled their plans.
These realities that Ohioans face demand action by our policymakers. However, in the state budget deliberations – we are suffering from a shortage of will rather than wallet. While we have the resources to invest in expanding publicly funded child care, expanding post-partum care to low-income parents, and providing for equitable education funding and student health and wellness – there is resistance to these family-focused supports.
The state budget is an opportunity to show that Ohio is a place where children and families can thrive and flourish and we need to make funding and policy decisions to support them. We have four weeks to make the investments needed to create the future we envision for Ohio where all children valued and treated with dignity and respect.