How one leader at the Census Bureau is focusing on a more accurate count of children in the 2020 Census.
As the Census Bureau’s program manager for the undercount of young children in the 2020 Census, Karen Deaver is focused on a more accurate count of kids in next year’s census.
Children’s Hospitals Today spoke with Deaver to discuss the steps she and her team are taking to accurately account for all children in the upcoming census.
What is the Census Bureau doing to address the historical problems around the undercounting of children?
There are a couple of different areas that we're focusing on.
First, our questionnaires. We’ve revised everything—questionnaire wording, training that our follow-up enumerators and interviewers receive, frequently asked questions and help texts—to specifically call out the young children population, the kids who are under 5 years old. There are certain situations where we know children are omitted on a questionnaire, so we're training our follow-up interviewers to keep that top of mind.
Additionally, we’re working with state, local and tribal governments to form Complete Count Committees (CCCs.) There is also a Count All Kids CCC focused on the issue of young children.
We are also forming many partnerships with local and national organizations to not only get the word out that this is an issue, but also to reach those people who are at risk of leaving children off their census response. These partnerships can help us develop messaging and materials that might speak more effectively to their communities.
Whether that's working with the local pastor or partnering with a company that gives newborn packages at the hospital with onesies that say, “Don't Forget to Count Me,” there are a lot of things we're working on to target children at risk of being omitted from the count.
What attributes do you feel partners can bring to the table to help the Census Bureau accurately count kids?
It’s a lot of things. We talk about how partners can be our trusted voices. This is true throughout the census because getting people to participate at all is an issue. We’re looking at fun ideas to figure out how we can best provide information for filling out the census, as well as reminding those at-risk populations to do so.
In any operation this large, you can't do it by yourself. It is the government's function to count the population, but the government can’t do it alone. We must have help. The word of mouth and other support that comes from partnerships is critical.
The message is clear: It's not just me who benefits—you benefit when your kids get a new school. The hospitals know where to put a new children's leukemia center, because we know where those kids are. The only way we know that is if the people tell us. It's in everybody's best interest to participate in the census, so we want to provide the tools and information for our partners to help get the word out.
How can children’s hospitals help in the effort to make sure kids are counted in the census?
Children’s hospitals are a trusted voice. Parents come to doctors and hospitals because they are concerned about their kid. They trust you with their life—that's not an exaggeration. If a trusted voice like yours says, "Hey, this is really important," it helps get that message out.
The importance of counting everyone is critical—particularly those young children, because we know they are hardest hit by undercounting. They can be very difficult to find given their living situations. Tell your patients’ parents to include their babies, even if they're still in the hospital on Census Day.
You have opportunities to remind parents by putting up posters, handing out flyers and including reminders in your go-home bags for children. You can draw useful information for those efforts from our website to help. A lot of it is simply communicating the importance of the census to ensure everyone gets counted.
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