A Look Back at the “Year of the Child”

When I was sworn in as CSAC President last fall, I declared that I wanted my term to be known as the “Year of the Child.” I emphasized that all our actions as an Association and as leaders in our respective counties needed to be put in the context of how they impact our children. For an Association such as ours, this can be complex; while we work on a variety of issues of importance to our members, the actual impact on our children can be perceived as indirect yet still critically important.

When I look back on the past year, we were able to advance this agenda on a number of legislative fronts, including health and human services, the environment, public safety, and building healthy communities. The CSAC Board of Directors took the first step in these efforts by unanimously passing a resolution declaring 2013 the “Year of the Child.” Once that action was taken, 16 counties followed suit and passed their own resolutions affirming their commitment to the lives of the children in our communities.

From there, our CSAC advocacy team and officers worked to incorporate a simple question into all advocacy efforts: “How are the children?” In our meetings with legislators and the Governor, we always took a moment to explain CSAC’s focus and our mission for 2013. Often, this elicited a more robust and constructive conversation about the role of counties in the daily lives of our children and families, leading to new alliances and strengthened relationships with elected leaders and members of the Brown administration.

Further, when our staff worked on advocacy efforts related to the Affordable Care Act, child welfare services, foster youth and the state budget, we never lost sight of the impact of these policies on our children. From supporting legislation to strengthen county child abuse multidisciplinary teams by allowing them to share information on suspected child abuse to ensuring that hospitalized children and their families remain eligible for state and federal aid, CSAC supported numerous pieces of legislation to improve child health, safety and well-being in our great state.

We also worked diligently to elevate my initiative in the area of public safety and criminal justice. For example, during leadership discussions with California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, issues impacting our youth were discussed. Throughout the year we incorporated relevant and timely policy discussion topics before our Administration of Justice Policy Committee, including the implications of childhood trauma on future criminal justice involvement. We also participated in statewide policy discussions on juvenile justice horizons and explored examples of local program interventions with at-risk youth.

When we look to the future well-being of our children, we cannot ignore the health of our environment and communities. Counties are working to develop healthy and livable communities which will foster thriving generations of children to come. CSAC has engaged in a number of activities this past year which aim to assist counties in this critical effort – from ensuring transportation dollars are spent on local street and road safety improvements, including dedicated funding for Safe Routes to School, to advocating for Cap and Trade funding for local greenhouse gas emissions reduction programs. Clean air, safe drinking water, access to parks and open space are the building blocks of healthy communities and healthy families.

CSAC’s Annual Challenge Awards, which spotlight the most innovative, cost-effective programs developed by our 58 counties, honored a number of programs focusing on our children. These included Nevada County’s innovative approaches to children’s mental health services, Sonoma County’s juvenile hall boys and girls club, Tulare County’s teen digital media lab, Butte County’s behavioral health program to strengthen families, San Luis Obispo County WIC Dental Days, and San Bernardino County’s preschool referral project. CSAC staff has worked on a number of fronts to publicize these programs and their positive impacts on our children.

Yes, a lot has been accomplished in the past year. I want to thank my fellow CSAC Officers and Board of Director members for supporting my initiative. I also want to once again thank those counties that adopted resolutions declaring 2013 as “Year of the Child.” And as the year winds down, I ask once again that you keep foremost in your mind the question, “How are the children?” We need to continue focusing on our children – their present and future – until we can truly and without reservation answer this question with, “All the children are well.”

About: David Finigan:
David Finigan serves as Immediate Past President of the California State Association of Counties and is a Del Norte County Supervisor.

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