UHF Webinar Highlights ‘Disconcerting’ Barriers for New York’s Children and Families

Children and families across New York are facing significant barriers to their well-being, according to new comprehensive data shared at a United Hospital Fund webinar. 

Statewide, nearly 19 percent of children live in households below the federal poverty level, 26 percent of families are severely rent-burdened, and only 59 percent of 3- and 4-year-old children are enrolled in early education, according to a Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York (CCC) report released earlier this year. Each of these barriers disproportionately affect people of color, the data show. 

A Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York (CCC) report ranks counties based on barriers to the well-being of children and families.
A Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York (CCC) report ranks counties based on barriers to the well-being of children and families.

The analysis, which includes data from 2017 to 2020, unveils both a concerning picture of the hurdles New York children face and important guidelines for how to overcome them, report authors said. 

“This approach is meant not just to be informative, but to spur government action, philanthropic action, and direct service providers [to use] this information as part of their work,” said Bijan Kimiagar, PhD, associate executive director for research at CCC New York. “The key takeaways can be very disconcerting...and at the same time we see information that offers opportunities. We should lean into those.” 

Dr. Kimiagar was among three speakers at United Hospital Fund’s PEDS Learning Network webinar, “The State of Children in New York,” held on March 30. The event, attended by more than 70 participants, is the first of four the PEDS Network will host in 2023 as part of its annual webinar series. It focused on reports from the Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York and the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy, plus policy recommendations stemming from the data. 

In both reports, the experts noted that although many metrics for well-being have been on an upward trajectory in recent years, deep disparities still exist. The CCC report found that, in counties with the greatest barriers to well-being, two thirds of the population are people of color. In counties with the fewest barriers, more than 60 percent of the population is white. 

“It’s important that we think about...if these are improving, are they actually improving for everybody?” Dr. Kimiagar said. 

Interestingly, many potential policy solutions have already been tested during the COVID-19 pandemic, experts said. In 2021, pandemic relief measures like expanding eligibility and increasing amounts for the federal child tax credit brought child poverty to a nationwide low. Child poverty has since increased as pandemic relief programs expire.  

“The evidence is really clear that we can cut child poverty,” Kate Breslin, president and CEO of the Schuyler Center, told webinar participants. “In doing so, that could have an impact on so many of these other [barriers].” 

Policy recommendations from CCC and the Schuyler Center include expanding eligibility for New York’s own child tax credit; making continuous coverage provisions in Medicaid permanent for children under 6 years old; addressing the housing crisis with a new voucher program; and increasing supports for behavioral health, early intervention, childcare, and other underfunded services. 

The on-the-ground experiences of pediatricians, like those served by UHF’s PEDS Learning Network, play an important role in pushing for those policies, experts said. 

“[Their] viewpoint helps fill out the realities of what our children and families are facing in a way that elected leaders don’t always hear,” said Alice Bufkin, MPAff, CCC’s associate executive director for policy and advocacy. “We want to do as much as we can with your expertise and your experience so that we can all be pushing together in the same direction on issues that can support kids and families.” 

In addition to its webinar series, United Hospital Fund’s Pediatrics for an Equitable Developmental Start (PEDS) Learning Network includes an online resource center hosted on UHF’s website and a fellowship program that develops and nurtures the next generation of clinical leaders.

Watch the full webinar below: