The Census Bureau announced recently it will end its work in communities to encourage Census participation, or “field data collection” by Sept. 30, which is a full month earlier than planned. As we know, many of the people living in our communities who are the most vulnerable to program cuts are the ones who have yet to complete the nine Census questions that are essential to ensuring that all of our communities receive the right amount of funding, services, resources and more over the next decade. Shortening the amount of time that Census workers can help at this critical moment in our history creates real risks to community well-being. As service providers, neighbors, and leaders, we recognize both the importance of accurate Census counts and the barriers that families may face to completing the Census.
In addition to continuing to help with the count itself, you can also join our national network partner, The Partnership for America’s Children and others to call on Congress to include language in the next COVID relief package that would extend the statutory reporting deadlines for the 2020 Census by four months and prohibit the Bureau and the President from sending the relevant data to the Congress in advance of those deadlines.
Connecting and Counting All Our Children
While our state’s residents are responding to Census forms in higher numbers than the national average, we know that some groups of children and youth continue to be undercounted.
In our latest staff blog, Michele Corey writes about the vital link in connecting and counting all our children — and with the month of May being Foster Care Awareness Month.
Many children and youth cared for by foster, kin or other caregivers don’t get counted in the Census when they should, putting funding for essential supports for children and youth in these families at risk.
Read Michele’s Blog here.
Our Urgent Call to Action
Michigan’s Children is proud to be an advocate for youth and families across our state and have used our voice, influence, and credibility along with our dedicated network of partners, elected officials, community leaders, providers, and others, to accomplish significant policy wins with the intent of closing gaps and building bridges on behalf of the most vulnerable populations in our state – including but not limited to children in foster care, runaway and homeless youth, and caregivers providing for loved ones in temporary or permanent situations.
The Coronavirus outbreak has exposed equity gaps among many of the populations we’re called to serve, advocate, and mobilize in our work. While these gaps are now more visible than ever, another integral component to becoming part of the solution is evident — our direct access, constant communication, and moreover, credibility, with individuals and families most vulnerable amid today’s new everyday reality.
The very same children, youth, and families many of us advocates and providers work with and for daily, are often left feeling unheard, and their experiences and perspective have taken for granted. The immediate opportunity to build full participation in the 2020 US Census is a critical space to start.
Beginning last week, families are receiving Census forms via mail, and with April 1st being Census Day nationally, it is essential that we all begin to reach deep within our networks and help the families we all serve to fill out the Census.
While advocates such as ourselves understand both the importance and urgency behind contributing to an accurate census count, that includes all of our babies, children, and youth, many people we interact with and serve may not be aware of the census’ impacts and consequences. Together, through a collective push for completed census forms, we can work to close some of the equity gaps this pandemic has further exposed.
As we all know, there are some families who are less likely to fill out the Census, and because of our social distancing, agency assistance is more important than ever. Some families need extra help and support, including those with very young children as well as families who are caring for children or youth temporarily through foster, relative, or even fictive kin providers. And, of course, those of you who are serving the most vulnerable families — those who are homeless, involved with domestic or other violence, have mental or behavioral health needs — filling out the Census forms are likely not high on their list of priorities, but counting them is essential.
Starting the conversation and spreading the message about the importance of accurate count data can be difficult, but we’re not in this alone. Advocates have made Wednesday, March 18th the official Count All Kids Day, where expert communicators created an online toolkit to help you get the conversation started within your own networks and communities.
A changed reality amid the latest public health concerns has forced many to become more diligent and intentful around our actions, not only for our own wellbeing but for the best interests of others — like our neighbors, friends, and youth in our communities. In that same light, it’s on us as advocates to remain diligent in ensuring all of us are counted in the 2020 Federal Census.
So when do I Count Kids?
The general rule is: Count children in the home where they live and sleep most of the time, even if their parents do not live there.
- If you’ve just had a baby, and your baby is still in the hospital on Census Day (April 1, 2020), then count your baby at the home where he or she will live and sleep most of the time.
- If children spend time in more than one home, count them where they stay most often.
- If their time is evenly divided, or if you do not know where they stay most often, count them where they are staying on April 1, 2020.
If a friend’s or family member’s child is staying with you (with or without the parent), and the child does not have a permanent place to live, count the child if he or she is staying
The 12 Census Questions and Why it Matters
The US Census questionnaire only contains 12 questions, but the answers we provide can impact our communities in many ways – both tangible and unseen. On this page, you can read each of the 12 questions and view a brief explanation of why the questions are being asked of US residents here.
What’s the Census Response Rate in Your Community?
Census results shape the future of communities, as census data informs how billions of dollars in federal funds are distributed for health clinics, school lunch programs, disaster recovery initiatives, and other critical programs and services for the next 10 years.
So, while you keep tabs on local response rates, encourage others in your community to respond to the 2020 Census.
The Census Bureau is challenging everyone to help ensure a complete and accurate count in 2020.
Keep tabs of how many households have responded in your community thus far, via this interactive map.