On December 4th, I joined ACNJ advocates and supporters in Kenilworth, NJ for ACNJ’s fourth annual breakfast, celebrating a year of achievement for New Jersey children while looking forward to all the successes yet to come. There, ACNJ’s Alana Vega, Peter Chen, The Fund for New Jersey president Kiki Jamieson and I spoke on a panel to address the importance of the 2020 Census and what people can do to make sure that New Jersey has a complete count.
My organization, Programs for Parents, understands the importance of a complete Census count. New Jersey receives close to $23 billion annually in funding, supporting services and programs such as child care subsidies, Head Start programs, school meals and NJ FamilyCare – all efforts that I have sought to advance for my entire career. However, it is estimated that 27,000 children ages 0-5 were missed in the 2010 Census. Missing people on the Census will impact all of us for the next 10 years.
During the panel discussion, one of the questions directed to me was what can child care providers do to encourage parents to complete the 2020 Census and help ensure a complete count? There are lots of things that providers can do, and many of them are easy. Among other activities, they can:
- Share information about the Census on their website, social media platforms and use the hashtag #Census2020NJ (make sure to tag ACNJ @acnjforkids!),
- Email and mail all families information about the Census, distribute literature at the center and include Census information in parent orientations,
- Hold a Census party to help educate parents and guardians in an enjoyable setting,
- Have a tablet available for parents to complete the Census at their program, acting as a Census kiosk,
- Create an activity kit for young children, have a sticker campaign, and be sure to include the book, “We Count: A 2020 Census Counting Book”,
- Train teachers, staff and parents to be Census Ambassadors. Information should come from more than one source.
But it’s not only child care providers who can help spread the word. Child care resource and referral agencies (CCR&Rs) can also encourage parents to complete the 2020 Census questionnaires. In addition to everything above, they can also:
- Include a video or slide show to be displayed in the office waiting area,
- Partner with County Councils to spread the word,
- Work with local child care centers to present at parent meetings, share literature and more,
- Create activity kits for centers and train staff on how to use them,
- Include a trailer after all professional development sessions about the Census, and
- Sign up Family Child Care and Centers to participate on their own.
These lists are only an outline of what advocates can do. The opportunity to be creative when spreading the word is endless. What’s important is that all of New Jersey works together to be counted. This is a once-in-a-decade opportunity that ensures New Jersey receives the funding it deserves. If all agencies and advocates work together, we can help each person, especially children ages 0-5, be counted.
Beverly Lynn, Ed.D., is the Chief Executive Officer of Program for Parents, Inc., which helps parents find child care for their children and provides training for child care providers. Learn more about her organization at programsforparents.org