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A good year for children & families in California

When I came to Next Generation a year ago, I was excited by its unique niche: policy thinking and communications on issues that affect California’s children and families. This was a place that understood that issues affecting parents and children are inextricably linked, and that smart policy-making can’t be successful without the ability to make it heard and understood.

Over this past year, the great team I work with has made some important contributions to California policy thinking. We have published several thoughtful and impactful reports:

  • Our brief on voluntary home visiting highlights the powerful effects these programs can have for new and vulnerable families, and the need for sustained funding to help them succeed. We are looking forward to ongoing research on California home visiting with Children Now and other partners in the year ahead.
  • In May, we reviewed laws across the country that ensure that employees have the ability to take time from work when they or their family members become ill. We recommended the passage of AB 1522, authored by Assemblymember Gonzalez, which would extend paid sick days to more than five million California workers who today can’t take a single sick day off from work. The bill has now moved past the Senate Appropriations Committee and is headed for a floor vote. It could be on its way to the Governor’s desk soon.
  • Based on earlier work, we offered the Legislative Analyst’s Office concrete recommendations to leverage opportunities brought about by the Affordable Care Act to streamline social services, and make them more accessible and helpful to parents struggling to get by. Regulations to integrate services were put in place since those reports were published, and new legislation is being considered this session.

When we haven’t been writing reports, we’ve been working with partners to move children and families issues forward in a number of other ways. We collaborated with the early childhood education field and advocates to highlight the huge need for new investments that will give children the best chances to prepare for school and beyond. We were thrilled to see major investments in early learning included in this year’s state budget.

Through the efforts of Too Small to Fail, we’re getting the word out about the word gap in Oakland. Adding to the great efforts of First 5 California, Too Small is educating parents and the community about the importance of talking, reading, and singing to children. Local efforts have been made possible with generous support from Lynn and Marc Benioff, and will premier at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital and at Kaiser Permanente Oakland. The campaign, titled “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” will expand to the rest of the community with the help of many local organizations, including our partner the Bay Area Council. I can’t wait to see how that work progresses and grows over the next several years.

Because parents can best provide stable, nurturing households when they have some control of their work schedules and know when they will be working next, we have been highlighting the growing trend of unpredictable work schedules. Working with partners in the California Work & Family Coalition, we have been supporting San Francisco Supervisors’ efforts to craft legislation that will help workers get predictable and reliable work schedules. Laws like this would go a long way toward helping workers take care of their families, access reliable child care, and plan their finances.

Also with Coalition partners, we convinced lawmakers to fund outreach and education efforts on California’s ground-breaking Paid Family Leave law, which is still under-utilized, despite being on the books for ten years and an expansion to the population who can take it.

It’s humbling and motivating to work in this space, where we have seen such tremendous growth and innovation, but also an overwhelming need for change. It keeps us going. With so much to do, and with such a great set of colleagues to work with, I know I’m in the right place.

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