As we prepare for the 2023 legislative session, Children’s Alliance is strengthening our capacity to deliver relevant and up-to-date information on the most important issues facing children and families in our state. Alongside gathering data from sources like KIDS COUNT and collaborating on priorities with partners in coalitions like the Early Learning Action Alliance and Washington Dental Access Campaign, we also engage our members through an annual online survey. This survey allows us to hear directly from you about the challenges facing your family and your broader community.
The annual member survey gathers critical input that helps to inform our legislative agenda and priorities for the coming year. It also helps us identify emerging issues that impact the kids and families you care about.
This year, we received 163 total responses to our annual survey from members like you. While the responses can’t speak for the whole state, they tell a story that is echoed across Washington: Families are still struggling in the aftermath of the pandemic, and a lack of access to affordable child care and health care puts further pressure on already burdened parents and caregivers.
We heard the following top areas of concern:
Early learning and child care - Many parents and caregivers lack access to high-quality and affordable care for infants, toddlers, preschoolers and school-age kids. In fact, data shows that currently, only 33 percent of families across the state have their child care needs met.
Mental and behavioral health services – Both children and their caregivers are struggling with trauma in the wake of a global pandemic and under the weight of systemic racism. The 2022 KIDS COUNT Data Book shows that 15.1 percent of children in Washington suffer from anxiety or depression, compared to 11.8 percent nationally. There is a clear need for better access to mental health services for families dealing with mental illness and heightened stress.
Economic security and job instability – Many parents are striving to return to the workforce post-pandemic, but lack of child care options exacerbates existing economic issues and makes it difficult for parents to keep a stable job. This makes it impossible for many families to rise out of poverty. While numbers have continually decreased since 2010, the most recent data shows that 12% of Washington kids are living in poverty.
Housing and homelessness – Due to unstable jobs and economic hardship, many families are worried about keeping and affording their homes. This is especially true for those in areas where the housing and rental market is skyrocketing. Eleven percent of children in Washington live in households where adults are struggling to make rent or mortgage payments on time.
Health and dental care – In addition to concerns about mental and behavioral health services, basic health and dental needs are not being met for families in many areas of Washington state, especially when those families need culturally competent or disability-friendly care for their children. Recent data shows that more than 2 million Washington residents have a dental care provider shortage where they live.
Most importantly, we heard your concerns about racial equity. We know that every challenge faced by families is made more difficult under racially unjust systems and public policies. This is why we choose policy priorities that advance racial equity, undo the damage caused by racism and support families of color. In every one of our campaigns, we seek to identify and reverse the racial disparities and inequalities impacting kids.
We are grateful to everyone who took the time to share their perspectives with us. The survey results affirmed that we must continue prioritizing early learning, health (both mental and physical), and financial stability for children and families. We shared your input with our Public Policy Council, which is charged with advising Children’s Alliance on critical policy issues. We’ll weigh this input deliberately as we prepare for the 2023 legislative session. If you are interested in hearing from Washington lawmakers on how we can advance racial equity for kids through public policy in the upcoming session, we invite you to join us online on October 27th for Path Forward.