Report: California Shortchanging its Children

A new report grades California on how well it protects society’s youngest members. (fidlerjan/morguefile)

Suzanne Potter /California News Service

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California needs to do more – a lot more – to help children who’ve been abused or neglected recover from the trauma.

That’s one conclusion of the 2016 California Children’s Report Card issued by the children’s advocacy group Children Now.

The annual report grades the Golden State on 31 measures of well being for the state’s 9 million children.

Kelly Hardy, senior managing director of Children Now, says the lowest grade, a D-minus, came in the category of childhood trauma because the state doesn’t spend enough to properly assess or treat children in kindergarten through third grade who have mental health challenges.

“Kids with childhood trauma are much more likely to require costly resources as adults in mental health, criminal justice and the medical area,” she points out. “So providing assessment and services is the right thing to do and it’s also the smart thing to do economically.”

Children Now is supporting a bill called the Early Mental Health Initiative in the next state legislative session that would provide $1 million a year for four years to fund mental health services at school sites.

The report also takes issue with the practice of moving children in foster care, who act out, from a home environment to a group facility.

“And that is one more move, one more tearing of bonds, one more trauma for this child to endure,” she stresses. “Rather than allowing them to stay in that home and bringing those services and supports to them so they don’t have to leave one more family.”

The report also criticizes the state’s record on child abuse prevention, educational outcomes and financial support for early child care. However, the state scored relatively well on the percentage of children enrolled in health insurance and in preschool.