Children are the voice of the future. El Día del Niño (The Day of the Child), also known as El Día de los Niños, is a Mexican holiday on April 30 created to celebrate children for that very reason. Additionally, many Latin American countries take part in this celebration. In 1956, the United Nations even created an initiative to invite other countries to affirm the rights of children and to celebrate as well.
Today, the conversation around ensuring the wellbeing and safety of our children during these extraordinary times is as important as ever. With 2020’s Día del Niño festivities landing on the cusp of the 2020 Census, both events exist against the backdrop of the coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic. As these circumstances exacerbate the existing risks of massively undercounting children – particularly Latino and other children of color, the need to ensure a full and accurate count has never been more critical as it is today. While school districts take on new virtual learning scenarios and work to ensure that students still have access to food programs, we are reminded of the census’s impact on the vital programs that exist to help protect our children’s futures.
Latinos are an increasingly younger demographic and the second-largest population group in the country. Hence, an undercount of Latino children would both underserve the community itself and lead to a failed census for all of America. Currently, 62 percent of young Latino children—more than 11 million boys and girls—live in or near poverty. Undercounting Latino children can reduce federal funding for various state and local programs, including ones that serve low-income families. Four federal assistance programs—Head Start; the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); the Child Care and Development Block Grant; and the Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant—distribute $20 billion annually to states and localities based, in part, on census counts of the population under age five.
Even though data on young children is critical, the census consistently undercounts young children at a much higher rate than any other age group. The 2010 Census, over one million children under five, were not counted – 400,000 were Latino. The net undercount rate for young Latino children was 7.1 percent, compared to 4.3 percent for non-Latinos. California, Texas, Florida, Arizona, and New York accounted for 72 percent of the national net undercount of young Latino children.
Latino children are among the most severely undercounted as they are more likely to live in hard-to-count places like areas with multi-unit buildings and a high proportion of renters, for example. Latino children are also more likely to live in hard-to-count families and households with complex relationships that may be multigenerational and highly mobile. Latino adults are also more likely to believe that young children do not need to be listed on the census form.
As families practice “safer-at-home” measures, school their children in virtual classrooms, and abstain from most of their usual activities before this public health crisis, we have all been reminded of the importance of our families’ safety and futures. This means ensuring a full and accurate count of everyone in the 2020 Census. And while research has made it clear that we need more creative strategies to reach and encourage Latino families to include their young children in the census, it is incumbent on all of us to do our parts to make sure everyone in our networks is counted. This is why NALEO Educational Fund’s bilingual ¡Hazme Contar! and ¡Hagase Contar! campaigns have launched a robust digital, paid, and earned media program targeting educators, parents, and young people, encouraging a full and accurate count while practicing social distancing.
Our ¡Hazme Contar! campaign includes working with local and national partners, educators, school board members, childcare providers, and parent leader groups to ensure they have the tools, information, and resources needed to inform their communities on the importance of counting all children. The campaign has also unveiled digital ads in English and Spanish as a part of this work.
This Día del Niño, let us make sure we count the children in our families and encourage others to do the same as there is no greater act of love than to ensure the health and wellbeing of our children and their futures.