Coming soon: WE COUNT!

David Elliot (CHN)

A new resource aimed at making sure young children and hard-to-count populations are counted in the 2020 Census is about to be printed, and advocates hope it will help ensure an accurate tally. You may find it a useful part of your efforts to make sure young children are counted in the 2020 Census.

WE COUNT! A 2020 Census Counting Book is an engagingly colorful, culturally sensitive 32-page book aimed at both young children and their parents. Its purpose is twofold: it is meant to be read aloud to young children to help them learn to count and, at the same time, it teaches adults to correctly count the members of their households on the 2020 Census form, despite their different living situations.

An example of a dilemma outlined in the book:

“This is tricky. There are 3 people where James lives. But now there are 4 people in his family! His mother just had a new baby! But the baby is still in the hospital. Who should be counted?”

The answer: “Babies in the hospital are counted with their family. So even though there are only 3 people where James lives now, there are 4 people in the household. So, James, his parents, and his new baby brother are all counted on the same Census.”

The book was produced by Simply Put Media, a nonprofit organization for underserved families. The group recently conducted an evaluation of the effectiveness of WE COUNT!  by bringing together service providers who are “trusted messengers” with families as well as nearly 103 parents and guardians in Passaic, New Jersey.

The evaluation, the results of which are now publicly available online suggests that when service providers are adequately trained, and when the book is shared with parents individually or in small groups, with trainers walking the parents through the book and discussing its contents, it is an effective tool for teaching parents how to adequately count their households, and allaying their concerns about the U.S. Census.

One interesting take-away from the evaluation: service providers started out with similar concerns and fears about filling out the 2020 Census as the parents they serve. Having authentic conversations about their own concerns and fears enabled them to be confident and comfortable talking about the census with families. Following a WE COUNT!  training, service providers felt very confident and comfortable acting as “trusted messengers” who could share accurate Census information with parents and could train their colleagues to use the WE COUNT!  books.

Passaic is a community where, like many other communities, immigrant families have been torn apart by ICE; service providers reported that the messages that were most effective in convincing parents to fill out the census involved benefits to their community and family, and confidentiality in taking the Census.

The parents and guardians who were part of the evaluation were an incredibly diverse group, originating from 13 different countries. Before they were exposed to WE COUNT!, 60 percent knew little or very little about the 2020 Census, and another 25 percent had not heard of it at all. 41 percent of the parents said they were unlikely or very unlikely to participate.

After walking through the book’s contents, however, attitudes changed. 80 percent said they would very definitely fill out the Census form; 7 percent said they were still not sure. 99 percent said they found the book helpful.

So how should organizations decide if they should use WE COUNT!  as part of their outreach efforts to ensure an accurate count, particularly among young children?

For the book to be a useful tool as part of a strategy to educate people about the importance of counting everyone in a household, including young children, it looks like service providers would need two things: some resources and adequate staff time. Resources, because the books come with a modest cost – 100 books cost $175 (that covers printing and shipping; the books are being sold at cost). And adequate staff because, as the evaluation indicates, the books are most effective when shared by staff with parents individually or in small groups.

As part of the WE COUNT!  curriculum, interaction with families is based on four core elements:
1. Give each family a copy of the WE COUNT!  book – individually, or within a group setting.
2. Open together to do a “bookwalk,” and find answers to Census questions and concerns.
3. Decide together how to count their household.
4. Offer support as they complete the Census form in writing, online, or by phone.

Simply Put Media plans to conduct live webinars training people on how to use the book in January, February, and early March.
Simply Put Media needs to know how many copies to print, so they hope you’ll place your order by Tuesday, Dec. 31. Copies of the WE COUNT! book can be ordered here.

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