January 3, 2020
Tracy Nájera, Executive Director
2019 proved to be a momentous year for Ohio’s children after years of state investments not keeping pace with the growing needs of children and families. In December, we asked you to weigh in on the big wins for children this past year and what should be the priorities in 2020. We got a variety of responses and more importantly, it challenged us to reflect on our shared progress for children this year while refining our goals and priorities to build on these wins and translate our hope into action
Strong Start for Children in 2019
Governor Mike DeWine kicked off 2019 strong with a state of the State< that reflected his commitment to a child-focused agenda with significant investments. Members of the Ohio’s Children’s Budget Coalition and the Ohio Lead Free Kids Coalition were thrilled to hear bold commitments to protect children from lead poisoning in the first couple minutes of his address setting the stage for continued forward momentum on his children’s agenda.
The Ohio General Assembly followed his lead with firm commitments to CHIP/Medicaid funding, expanded Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), funding for evidence-based home visiting programs for mothers and their newborns, and doubling the state’s support for public children services agencies to address the growing demands fueled by the opioid epidemic. There were surprises in the budget as well with $675M investments in school based health and wellness funding and a $10M infrastructure grant program for early care and education programs. Overall, the enacted FY 2020-2021 Ohio biennial budget represents a solid foundation of investments for children.
Much Work Left Unfinished Setting the Stage for 2020
With all our successes in this past year, much remains unsettled and the needs are growing. In the final months of 2019, CDF-Ohio and its partners took stock in our work and outlined the following priorities for 2020:
Uninsured Children: A recent report from the Georgetown Center for Children and Families identified that Ohio, a Medicaid expansion state, reported one of the largest spikes in child uninsured rates nationally in the last year. Ohio is clearly moving in the wrong direction and children not having health coverage works against the DeWine Administration and General Assembly’s investments in child well-being. In 2020, Ohio must get to the root cause of our growing child uninsured rates and reverse course with a clear-eyed focus on positive health outcomes for children and families.
2020 Census: The decennial census is crucial to Ohio’s future and an under-count of young children, our new American and immigrant communities, and racial and ethnic minorities can hamstring our prosperity for the next decade. Ohio’s non-profit community, local governments, service providers, faith leaders, and business partners, in partnership with national and state funders are stepping up to make sure Ohio’s most vulnerable communities count and are counted.
Opportunity Youth: Many of Ohio’s opportunity youth population, ages 14-24, who are not enrolled in school or participating in the workforce, are former foster youth, young parents, survivors of abuse and neglect, and are living in circumstances where they have very little control over their situation. So much more is needed to support these youth who represent so much potential and hope. 2020 must be the year that local and state government and service providers refocus efforts to help these youth flourish by re-thinking and re-designing programs and services that focus on long-term positive outcomes.
Gun Violence: In 2019, Ohio children experienced unprecedented gun violence and most recently tragic accidental shootings in central Ohio. Further, a recent report by Ohio University revealed a disturbing increase in the number of children and young adults completing suicide using firearms. Whether children are injured or killed using unsecured or found guns in their home or that of relatives or friends, the fact remains that many of these heartbreaking tragedies can be prevented. Governor DeWine’s 17-point plan paired with Sen. Dolan’s Strong Ohio legislation are steps in the right direction, but more is needed. Similar to laws that ban smoking in cars when children are present or that require seat belts and car seats – we must do more to protect children and keep them safe in their homes and in communities.
We envision a future where Ohio is a place where all children are safe, healthy, and count. The Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio is committed to making this vision a reality and will work relentless and in partnership to improve outcomes for all Ohio children – especially our most vulnerable. Let’s build on our 2019 wins and make forward progress for all Ohio’s children in 2020.