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Data is the Missing Piece: Using the Annie E. Casey Foundation as a Valuable Resource

By Dr. Stacy Howard, Florida Children’s Council  – ‘Tis the season for messaging in Florida given the 2014 legislative session begins on Tuesday March 4th.  For many of us, the bulk of our work is messaging to others the importance of the early years.  Our messages are shared with parents, partner organizations, professionals working in other fields, colleagues, funders, and for us here at the Council, policymakers.

Although messaging is important year-round, it is during this hectic time of year that it becomes the linchpin of critical policy decisions directly impacting the lives of children, their families, and professionals.  On our end, the logic is simply stated – invest early in a child’s life and reap a multiplier of benefits later.  These rewards go far beyond the intrinsic value to the individual child to also positively impact the child’s family, his community, his state and our nation.

For others, it takes persuasion to fully embrace or to, at least, entertain this logic.  As we all know from personal experience, sometimes we are not convinced by the messenger, but rather the science, research and data behind the messenger’s message.  This small, but ever so important fact of communication is what drives us at the Council.  We are committed to supporting what we know to be good for child development, family resilience and community health with the research that backs our messages up.

One of the organizations that we rely heavily upon for cutting-edge information and data is the Annie E. Casey Foundation.  The Annie E. Casey Foundation is a private charitable organization dedicated to helping build better futures for disadvantaged children across the county.  Established in 1948, the primary mission is to foster public policies, human-service reforms, and community supports that more effectively meet the needs of today’s vulnerable children and families. In pursuit of this goal, the Foundation not only makes grants, they also publish a plethora of resources helpful in getting messages across to various audiences.

The Foundation’s collection of work is archived online through what is called the Knowledge Center – intended to provide advocates, policymakers, practitioners, the media, researchers, and community members with a range of resources developed either by the Foundation’s experts or a grantee.

Facts that can be pulled from the national Knowledge Center are quick and powerful points such as:

  • Nearly 7.9 million U.S. children went without health insurance in 2010
  • In 2011, 34% of Hispanic or Latino children in the U.S. lived in poverty.
  • 68% of 4th graders scored below proficient on the National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test in 2011.

A project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation – KIDS COUNT – is a familiar data source for many of us.  In Florida, we have a data book catered just for us, published annually by the University of South Florida.  The Florida KIDS COUNT publication is housed in the Department of Child and Family Studies, Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute, College of Behavioral and Community Sciences and is part of the a nationwide KIDS COUNT network.

The Florida KIDS COUNT data book highlights include a 2013 fact sheet that gives data related to population, economic well-being indicators, juvenile justice statistics, education data and birth indicators including births to mothers without a diploma, mothers younger than 20, and low birthweight births.  This one fact sheet alone potentially supports several messages relating to our collective efforts to ensure children are safe, healthy and prepared for school and life success.

Other publications of Florida KIDS COUNT include:

  • Florida Mothers & Babies 2013
  • Florida Education Snapshot 2013
  • Indicator Brief: Florida Population 2013
  • Why Reading by the End of 3rd Grade Still Matters in Florida 2012

For more specific data – the Florida KIDS COUNT team has created an online data warehouse where users can select from a menu of choices to help narrow down to specific data.  The KIDS COUNT Data Center is a useful tool in finding and reporting data that is specifically shaped to support your message ranging across indicators: immigrant families, housing, poverty, employment, family structure and out of home placements.

The Foundation works for improvements in Child Welfare, Community Change, Economic Security, Education, and Juvenile Justice.  If you work for an organization that prioritizes any of the Foundation’s areas – bookmark the Foundation’s website for future and frequent use.  The more we can back up what we say, the more likely our audiences will be influenced by what we are saying!