By: Lauren Weaver, MD
Just weeks remain for families in the United States to fill out their Census forms. To help ensure as many children as possible are counted, I am excited to be part of a group of pediatric residents at Connecticut Children’s working to make sure children don’t get left out. We hope other pediatricians will also take up the cause.
Census Determines Federal Funding for Critical Programs
As pediatricians in training, we see the effects of the limited resources available to our patients and their families. There are many barriers to providing quality healthcare, which frequently extend far beyond our abilities within a primary care office. Looking upstream as to where funding is allocated from, it became apparent that the 2020 Census, which happens only once every 10 years, is a vital opportunity to address this issue. It is estimated that more than two million children were not counted in the 2010 Census, making children the largest undercounted group in the United States.
Every federal service that aims to ensure the health and well-being of children receives funding based on the number of children in need of that service. This includes school lunches, food assistance programs, federal housing subsidies, early intervention services like Birth-To-Three, foster care funding, and even our patients’ health insurance. The government allocates funding to these resources based on how many people, including children, are counted in the Census. An undercounting of children in the Census not only leads to reduced funding, but also fewer representatives for our state in Congress to advocate on their behalf. Even more alarmingly, children of color made up a disproportionate share of the missing millions of children from the 2010 Census. Children living in low-income households, non-English speaking households, single parent households or multi-generational households were more likely to be missed in the 2010 Census. Thus, the most vulnerable children were not counted and missed the opportunity for a decade’s worth of support for government-subsidized programs. The 2020 Census must reflect the most accurate count of the children in our state, or they will be left underfunded and underrepresented for the next 10 years, affecting the majority of their childhood and adolescence.
Taking Action to Ensure Kids are Counted
When our group of pediatric residents first learned about the importance of the 2020 Census for children, we knew we had to act to make sure our patients were counted. We took the following steps:
- Raising awareness: We held an educational session for our fellow residents on the importance and purpose of the 2020 Census, which helped inspire them to join us in this cause. During this session, we taught residents how to approach families and inform them about the importance of completing their Census forms so all of their children are counted. We also taught them how to address parent’s concerns about citizenship and privacy related to the Census.
- Reviewing past Census data: We reviewed the disparities in Census response rates and identified the hard to count census tracts, which included the communities that surround our hospital. Seeing that our local community was at risk for being undercounted, our residency program worked to develop an outreach project.
- Implementing an outreach effort: Through a generous grant from the Children’s Fund of Connecticut, we met with families from hard to count census tracts and helped them complete their Census forms online. The online system was easy to use. Residents were able to easily look up ID numbers and the process only took an average of two minutes.
- Encouraging families to conduct outreach: We asked the families we helped to reach out to their friends and neighbors to encourage them to complete their Census forms. We provided them with educational materials to share about the importance of the Census.
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We hope to help 100 families complete their Census forms before the closing date on September 30. We urge other pediatricians in the community to include discussions about the Census during well-child visits, so their patients understand the impact of not participating. We also encourage pediatricians to provide space and internet access for families so they can fill in the online questionnaire while waiting for appointments. Time is running out. With just weeks remaining before the 2020 Census count wraps up, it’s not too late. Let’s make kids count!
Visit my2020census.gov to fill out your Census form.
Lauren Weaver, MD is a resident physician at Connecticut Children’s and the UConn School of Medicine.
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Categories: Public Policy Advocacy