The San Joaquin Children’s Alliance convened the newly instated Children’s & Youth Task Force for the first time this week to discuss the staggering impacts of illiteracy and youth poverty on children in our region. Allies from the children’s alliance (like First 5 of San Joaquin, Human Services Agency, Family Resource & Referral Center, and other interested parties) met together to discuss local data collection focused on childhood well-being and what some of these numbers reveal about life outcomes for children in San Joaquin County. SJCA especially appreciates the love and labor of Board of Supervisor members Kathy Miller & Moses Zapien for their leadership in this task force meeting as well as for being champions on the issues our children and youth are facing locally.
During the task force meeting, Head Start & San Joaquin Data Co-op relayed that – in 2013 – only 27% of third graders in our county were reading at basic third-grade level. Cam Bullock – Data Co-Op’s Executive Director – noted that this pattern of data has been consistent in our county for at least 10 years (based on past data that has been collected and analyzed for our region). In the long-term, the low percentage of literate third graders in San Joaquin County impacts children as they become adolescents – and later, teens. It is no wonder that only 27% of high school students in our region are graduating equipped with the academic requirements to apply for University of California and California State University admissions. As we are learning, children’s/youth literacy plays a huge role in determining how likely a child is to end up homeless, incarcerated or worse throughout their lives. SJCA knows that convening as a task force will be just one part of a larger solution to create positive outcomes for our children and their families.
In the next months, the Children and Youth Task Force is seeking to outreach to more stakeholders, elected officials, and community members to identify which demographics of children and youth are in most need of immediate resources/assistance in order to focus intently on advocating for further investments in our most vulnerable children and their families. Specifically, the task force will look into what kinds of investments and opportunities are currently available for youth and how we can expand these resources to those who are most impacted by these issues. SJCA is hopeful that our inquiries and research into these challenges will provide pathways to solutions that are local, sustainable, and that work to uplift the potential of #OurFuture!