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Gov. Newsom signed AB 2832 – here’s what that means for California families

image for AB 2832

By: Vickie Ramos Harris, Director of Educational Equity at Catalyst California

Among the raft of equity bills that Governor Newsom signed into law, AB 2832, also known as the Whole Child Equity bill, stands out in its bold approach to impact how our state allocates early care and education resources based on equity. The bill, sponsored by Catalyst California and championed in the legislature by Assemblymember Robert Rivas, will provide a powerful tool for reducing racial and economic disparities for historically underserved communities of color across California.

Considering the intense financial, emotional, and physical devastation from COVID-19 on both families and the early childhood field, particularly for communities that have faced generations of systemic underinvestment, it’s clear that making new, smart and equitable investments in early care and education and whole child supports is a priority for California leaders. Up until now, the early care and education funding that local communities received has been determined by limited criteria focused on poverty level, existing infrastructure to run programs, or where the state has made previous investments. This approach has missed the important differences in communities, where some families face greater struggles beyond poverty such as lack of access to child care, health and mental health resources, and parks, as well as community safety and other factors that make up the holistic environment of children and impact the whole child.

Fighting for equity and social justice, Assemblymember Rivas and Catalyst California worked with allies to find a solution to advance racial and economic equity, using a “whole child” approach that captures a fuller picture of what children and their families are facing to allow the state to make better decisions about how to help them succeed.

Earlier this Spring, Catalyst California engaged with families across California to understand their experiences with the early childhood system and what they need for their young children. During a series of parent focus groups, one mother from the Humboldt-Del Norte region shared the heart-wrenching pressure to find affordable high-quality early care and education.

“I lost two jobs and had to turn down one job, a really good job, because I struggle with child care,” she said. “Right now, my dad is watching my baby temporarily while I work. And when summer starts, my 13-year-old sister is going to watch him. It’s nerve-racking and very scary, but I don't have other options. I’ve tried to get child care through my welfare, but it hasn’t worked out. I don't know what I am going to do when summer ends.”

In similar conversations with dozens of families from rural, low-income, farmworker, immigrant, and refugee communities across the state representing Black, Latinx, Pacific Islander, South Asian, and Indigenous/Native American voices, families uplifted the layers of challenges they face – health and mental health struggles (e.g., postpartum anxiety and depression), food insecurity, unemployment and under-employment, housing instability, insecure immigration status, and difficulty navigating the foster care system. Many did not have family nearby or a network they could depend on for help and felt very isolated. 

While California has made important investments to support families with young children, California has not been able to ensure these resources reach those who most need help – until now.

The Whole Child Community Equity Screening Tool will help our state understand how to distribute resources to the kids who need it the mostThe bipartisan passage of AB 2832 charts a new path that places racial equity, economic justice and the needs of the whole child at the forefront. This bill creates a data-driven approach that will provide a clear picture of which communities have the greatest need and enables leaders to make informed decisions to target resources and policies where they would have the greatest impact. 

Every child deserves a quality education that provides joyful, enriching learning environments that unlock their full potential and sets them up for success. A child's first years are a magical period of rapid learning and growth across many areas, including physical, cognitive, social and emotional, and language development. It is a time when young children need consistent, supportive, caring, and playful learning environments, and should be surrounded by a nurturing community of support. 

What Californians should take away from the passage of AB 2832 is that our state will have the tools to ensure future investments reach the children and families who need it most and uplift underserved communities to support families with young children to thrive.