We all know that raising kids is expensive. An extra $250-300 a month can go a long way in helping families provide food and clothes, and paying for child care and rent.
This year many families are receiving that extra income due to the restructuring of the Child Tax Credit (CTC). Part of the American Rescue Plan passed by Congress in March, it made CTC payments larger -- up to a total of $3,000 per child ages 6-17 and $3,600 for children under six. It also allowed more families to be eligible. The result has been that millions of families have been lifted out of poverty nationwide. While many families are receiving the payment, there are some who do not know they qualify.
Most families have automatically started to receive payments of $300 a month for each child under age 6 and $250 a month for children ages 6-17 between July and December. However, some families who need the CTC most are not currently receiving it -- because they may not have filed taxes in 2019 or 2020. The California Policy Lab estimates that in Alameda County, 27% of children enrolled in SNAP or TANF are at risk of not receiving the CTC. This means that over $53 million in tax credits might go unclaimed in Alameda County alone.
Nearly all families with children are eligible, even if they don’t normally file taxes. The monthly payments will not count as income and not impact their eligibility for programs such as SNAP, TANF and MediCal.
Californians can go to GetCTC.org/California-benefits and fill out simplified forms to get the Child Tax Credit. Live help is available in English and Spanish.
At this site, families can also learn whether it makes sense for them to file a full return to get other benefits such as the Golden State Stimulus. For those families who do want to file a full return, there is free tax help available online and in person at the Oakland Public Library and at the Alameda County Social Services Agency (for those receiving public assistance.
For more information on how to get the word out to families about this important program, check out the California CTC Communications Hub compiled by LightBox Collaborative.
The CTC is scheduled to revert back to the former structure which means lower payments and fewer eligible families at the end of 2021. Efforts are underway in Congress to include the expanded CTC as part of the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation process.
By Julia Forte Frudden, Research Consultant for OSSS and OUSD ECE
Over the past year and a half, Oakland Starting Smart and Strong and Oakland Unified’s Early Childhood Education Department have been meeting with parent leaders from the San Antonio Family Resource Center to discuss their local Early Development Instrument (EDI) results and learn about their advocacy work. The Resource Center’s Parent Action Research Team (SAFRC PART) is a community of multicultural, multilingual parent leaders who live or work in this Oakland neighborhood; they come together to improve services and resources for families with young children.
In our meetings with SAFRC PART, parent leaders told an important and intimate story about their neighborhood, sharing what they love about where they live and work. From that point, they discussed what they lose out on when early childhood systems -- what we dubbed the“ECEcosystem” -- fail to meet their community’s needs. As our relationship developed with SAFRC PART and we built trust with one another, we at OSSS and OUSD wanted to create something tangible to support SAFRC PART’s work, particularly their proposal for a full-service community resource center in San Antonio Park. We hoped that early childhood data could be an asset to their efforts; above all, we wanted to provide support as the community told their own story and advocated for solutions grounded in their lived experience. The result was draft ECEcosystem Zone Profiles, centering interviews with parent leaders and the organization’s community resource center proposal. We used quantitative data to support the rich stories that were shared with us.
These draft zone profiles were then shared with SAFRC PART so their feedback could shape them. We recognize that data about a community should be owned by that community; they have the right to validate, refute, question, and analyze it. The parent leaders made important changes to the profiles and then identified groups to share the profiles with, including other parents in the community, early care providers, and policy makers.
Through this process, we made sure that researchers and early childhood advocates from outside of the community listened to the experts on early childhood needs in the San Antonio neighborhood -- the families themselves. Parent leaders shared their frustration that the language we used when talking about the EDI tool and the EDI results were sometimes contradictory. We would say that the EDI results were a reflection of how systems were doing, but then we used language centered on children (i.e. X% of children are vulnerable or X% of children are not on track). Parent leaders also shared concerns that phrases like “vulnerable” or “not ready for school” focused on deficits, not strengths. We adjusted our language to “X% of children are fully supported” and we further refined this with more feedback from the community to “X% of children were fully supported by the ECEcosystem.”
SAFRC PART provided us with critical feedback -- both on the EDI results and on the research tool itself. Their feedback also helped us think more deeply about how we could use our power and proximity to power to advocate for ECE data and research tools to be more equitable and antiracist. We are now making important changes to how we present data and we are also currently advocating for changes to be made to the EDI tool itself.
We thank SAFRC PART for their hard work and dedication to improving the ECEcosystem for young children and their families in the San Antonio neighborhood. We are incredibly honored to be in partnership with this amazing group of parent leaders. We look forward to more opportunities to support their work and to following their lead as they advocate for the future they want.
Moreover, we look forward to using our imaginations in our roles as advocates and researchers as we think about how early childhood data can truly be in service to community-led systems change, if and when the community wants it.
If you’d like to connect with us and learn more about this project or review the EDI results for your community together, please request a presentation or email Trisha Barua (firstname.lastname@example.org).
SAFRC PART was created through First 5 of Alameda County’s Neighborhoods Ready for School (NRFS) initiative. NFRS funded ALL IN Alameda County which partnered with Lotus Bloom, EBAYC, and Trybe to launch the San Antonio Family Resource Center.
The planning team for the Oakland Early Learning Symposium faced the challenge of 2020-21 similarly to everyone else, by moving one step at a time and doing our best to respond to the needs of those we serve. The result was a series of four online events over the 2020-2021 school year entitled, “Navigating the New Now: Child Care During COVID-19.
As one event participant shared, “You really capture a feeling in all of these events. I have not attended in person but virtually you all have created timely content, had engaging speakers, honored the land, just created such a wonderful meeting space. I truly know in my heart that whatever next year looks like virtual/in person or both, that it will be great.”
The symposium navigated the “new now” by focusing Part I on how to reopen child care safely in August 2020. Two other events followed, and we finished in May 2021 with Part IV, entitled “Celebrate and Reflect.” Throughout, the planning team sought to provide the most recent data, information, support, and on the ground perspectives to the Oakland early learning community during a very difficult year. The result is that over 95% of participants were satisfied or very satisfied with this year’s symposium events. You can find detailed information about each of those events on our symposium webpage, including the event recordings and resource sheets packed full of information. Make sure you check out the tribute videos from local elected officials and leaders, shown at our last event (at the bottom of this post).
A particular challenge for the planning team was how to provide ways for Oakland early learning professionals to support and share with each other virtually in a spirit of community, similar to the 2019 in-person event. The result was the birth of “Let’s Talk Early Learning,” a drop-in informal Zoom gathering for all early learning professionals. Led by Oakland Unified School District preschool teachers Annette Wright, Jacquetta Wallace, and Nini Humphrey, it was a safe and welcoming space to share with each other. The capstone was an amazingly informative event about COVID-19 safety in child care centers from UCSF medical professionals hosted by Let’s Talk in March. If you want information about upcoming Let's Talk Early Learning events, please join our symposium participant google group by emailing email@example.com.
As we face a new school year, with its own unique challenges, we want to hear from you! What is your vision for the 2021-22 Oakland Early Learning Symposium? What type of resources and support are you looking for this year? Take our quick survey to let the planning team know!
Oakland Starting Smart and Strong’s Policy & Advocacy work seeks to undo the systemic racism embedded in the field of early care and education through greater support for this workforce -- which is composed primarily of women of color -- and through making child care more accessible for each and every family. With child care funds from the American Rescue Plan coming soon -- and with the possibility of unprecedented support for early care and education through the American Families Plan -- OSSS is laying the groundwork now to ensure that families and child care professionals most impacted by the pandemic have a seat at the table in reimagining early childhood systems that work for all. Here’s what we’re weighing in on.
Family child care providers building community power
Family Child Care providers have served a critical role as educators and community leaders during the pandemic, remaining open to provide care for the children of essential workers and working families. The Oakland Family Child Care (FCC) Policy Program is making sure these providers’ voices are heard in policy and budget conversations. This program’s Planning Committee is led by a diverse group of FCC providers and parent advocates, who are supported by BANANAS, First 5 Alameda County, and OSSS.
Since February 2021, committee members have been meeting regularly to discuss the impact of COVID19 on their livelihoods and the families they serve, identify advocacy priorities, and learn about state and federal policies that impact family child care. The Planning Committee organized its first Community Conversation on Advocacy for Oakland/Alameda County providers, which featured a panel discussion where providers talked about what advocacy means to them, community building through Valley Family Child Care and Alameda Professional Child Care Associations, and labor organizing through Child Care Providers United. Check out this FCC policy and data information sheet in Chinese, English, and Spanish.
To stay up to date on upcoming Community Conversations, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
State Budget Advocacy for Oakland’s Mixed Delivery Early Childhood System
It’s state budget and legislative season -- and California is in the midst of plans for recovery from the pandemic. As always, there are a lot of moving parts, but what stays constant for OSSS is our advocacy for a budget grounded in racial and economic justice that supports working families and their children, fairly compensates educators who are critical for our state’s economy, and centers the Oakland communities who have been most impacted by the pandemic.
Addressing Gov. Newsom’s early childhood proposals in this year’s state budget, OSSS sent a Budget Letter along with a One-Page Overview to our local legislators: Assemblymember Rob Bonta, Senator Nancy Skinner, and Assemblymember Buffy Wicks. OSSS partners -- including BANANAS, Oakland Unified School District, First 5 Alameda County, Alameda County Social Services Agency, St. Vincent’s Day Home, Lotus Bloom Family Resource Center, Hellman Foundation, and providers on the Oakland FCC Policy Program Planning Committee from Blessed Beginnings Daycare and Shruti’s Family Daycare -- also recently met with the offices of Rob Bonta and Nancy Skinner.
In these meetings, we emphasized that child care providers are skilled educators who keep the economy running and that families need a variety of child care options and settings. We discussed the importance of maintaining what’s known as a “mixed-delivery system,” which includes the full range of private and public early care and education programs and settings, ranging from family child care homes, friend/family/neighbor caregivers, child care centers, public early education through Head Start and school districts, and neighborhood family resource centers. Because children’s and families’ needs vary -- based on work schedules, culture and language, developmental stage, and more -- a one-size-fits-all approach will not fit all families.
With proposals to expand Transitional Kindergarten likely to move forward after the May Revise to the budget on May 14, we’ll keep an eye on implementation and continue to work with our partners to elevate parent and provider priorities.
Click here to sign up for the CAPPA Monday Morning Update to track budget and legislative news. First 5 Alameda and Child Care Law Center are additional resources for policy and advocacy updates.
Want to learn more, or join our advocacy efforts? Contact Trisha Barua, OSSS Policy Analyst, at email@example.com.