Author Archives: Kelsey McMahon

  1. The State of Virginia’s Children Data Product

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    Across the Commonwealth, an increasingly diverse population of children, youth, young adults, and families highlights the need for policies that reduce barriers to services and target the unique needs and experiences of people of color, under-resourced communities, and those living in immigrant families. The pandemic has both created and exacerbated long standing inequities and while access to health insurance and other economic supports provided relief for some families, not all families show signs of a recovery.

    The State of Virginia’s Children report highlights some prominent issue areas affecting Virginia’s children, youth, and families. The goal of this report is to define and describe where we are and where we need to go with the most recent data available. Data is necessary for determining the future direction of policies in Virginia. The needs of Virginia’s children can be quite different based on their experiences and identities; this report reveals various disparities and trends that can be used to inform policy objectives that take into account every child, no matter their background.

    This unique product summarizes key trends for children, youth, and families in the areas of demographic growth, economic security and mental health. Each section focuses on major findings and elements of each issue area and provides easy-to-understand data visualizations that are accompanied with summarized headlines that suggest what future policies Virginia’s leaders should emphasize. The Demographics page includes data on population, racial diversity, immigration, and language access. The Economic Security page covers data on poverty, poverty by race, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on employment rates. The Mental Health page consists of data on the prevalence of mental health conditions in children and youth, mental health care by race, and the impact of the pandemic on mental health. Graphics are provided to distinctly illustrate each point.

    This report can be used by individuals, organizations, policy decision-makers, and state agencies to not only get a picture of what is happening currently, but also to compare state and local trends to see where improvements can be made for children in local communities. Each visualization can be shared individually or grouped together to provide information to interested parties.

    Tag Voices for Virginia’s Children in any content shared from this report on social media on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

    Included on the Voices for Virginia’s Children website is a source guide defining indicators and going into additional detail for each topic. If you have any questions or concerns, contact Research Director, Lauren Snellings for additional assistance.

  2. Celebrating the Increase in Virginia’s Hispanic and Latino Community


    This page has been written in English and translated into Spanish.

    Hispanic Heritage Month is observed from September 15th to October 15th. The beginning of this heritage month marks the anniversaries of different Latin countries’ independence days. Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua all celebrate their independence on September 15, Mexico celebrates on September 16, Chile celebrates on September 18, and Belize celebrates on September 21. Learning about and celebrating the history and culture of Latino people is an excellent way to appreciate the differences between our neighbors. Differences between groups are vital. They are what make us unique while also allowing us to be a part of something larger than ourselves. Click here for a list of books to begin learning more about this rich history and culture from some amazing Latino authors.

    The 2020 Census defines Ethnicity under two categories: “Hispanic or Latino” or “Not Hispanic or Latino.” “Hispanic or Latino” is defined by the Census as a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race. This Hispanic Heritage Month, Virginia has even more of a reason to celebrate; the 2020 Census indicates that Virginia has seen a 43.8% increase in the percentage of Hispanic and Latino people since 2010. The Hispanic and Latino community in Virginia increased from 7.9% to 10.5% of the population in ten years, for an overall increase of 276,924 people. This shift was one of the greatest increases of any singular racial/ethnic group in Virginia from 2010 to 2020. More Census data is needed on Virginia’s children and youth, but the KIDS COUNT Data Center demographics by race/ethnicity show that children reflect similar diversity trends, with the amount of Hispanic children in Virginia increasing by 36.4% from 2010 to 2019.

    It is crucial to get an accurate representation of the subgroups of people in Virginia to better serve the needs of every community. By being aware of the issues that disproportionately affect Hispanic and Latino people, appropriate equity measures can be implemented. In healthcare, language barriers can affect the quality of care through miscommunications between doctor and patient, often decreasing patient safety and making families less willing to access health services available to them. Another barrier for this community is immigrant status affecting access to Medicaid. Medicaid allows for increased access to health insurance for those who would otherwise go uncovered; however, immigrants, documented and undocumented, are more likely to be uninsured compared to US citizens. In 2019, Virginia had a child uninsured rate of 5%. However, when we drill down by race, we see that 12% of Hispanic or Latino children were uninsured this year.

    The Public Charge Rule also played a role in restricting Latino access to basic needs. The 2019 version of this rule proposed to restrict access more than ever to immigrants applying for visas and green cards by redefining what it meant to be dependent on (or likely to be dependent on) government benefits. Although the Public Charge Rule was never implemented, this legislation, along with ICE raids, has produced significant distrust in the US government for Latino communities, therefore disincentivizing immigrants to enroll in public benefits.

    Although barriers in access continue to hinder participation in healthcare, Virginia has also made great strides in these areas. On July 1st, 2021, Virginia expanded the Family Access to Medical Insurance Security (FAMIS), a Virginia’s health insurance program that helps make health care affordable for children. More than 1,500 undocumented pregnant individuals have enrolled in FAMIS prenatal care in just 2 months. To qualify for this program, you no longer need to meet immigration status rules, provide immigration documents, or have a Social Security number. Read more about what is covered by this policy here.

    Another policy, effective April 1st, 2021, changed Virginia Medicaid coverage qualifications. Green Card holders with 5+ years of US residency are no longer required to show proof of 10 years of work experience in the US to be covered by Medicaid, thereby expanding insurance coverage. Initiatives such as these can more effectively give accessible healthcare and health insurance solutions to communities with greater numbers of immigrants.

    As we celebrate this Hispanic Heritage Month this year, it is important that we appreciate our Latino neighbors and acknowledge the disparities affecting these communities. With this compassion and understanding, we can achieve equitable outcomes for Latino children, youth, and families.


    El Mes de la Herencia Hispana se celebra del 15 de septiembre al 15 de octubre. El comienzo de este mes de la herencia marca los aniversarios de los días de independencia de diferentes países latinos. Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras y Nicaragua celebran su independencia el 15 de septiembre, México lo hace el 16 de septiembre, Chile el 18 de septiembre, y Belice el 21 de septiembre. Conocer y celebrar la historia y la cultura de la gente Latina es una excelente manera de apreciar las diferencias entre nuestros vecinos. Las diferencias entre grupos son vitales. Son las que nos hacen únicos a la vez que nos permiten formar parte de algo más grande que nosotros mismos. Haga clic aquí para ver una lista de libros para empezar a aprender más sobre esta rica historia y cultura de algunos autores latinos increíbles.

    El censo de 2020 define la etnicidad bajo dos categorías: (hispano o latino) o (no hispano o latino). “Hispano o Latino” es definido por el Censo como una persona de origen cubano, mexicano, puertorriqueño, sudamericano o centroamericano, o de otra cultura u origen español, sin importar la raza. En este Mes de la Herencia Hispana, Virginia tiene aún más motivos para celebrar; el Censo de 2020 indica que Virginia ha visto un aumento del 43,8% en el porcentaje de personas hispanas y latinas desde 2010. La comunidad hispana y latina en Virginia aumentó del 7,9% al 10,5% de la población en diez años, para un aumento general de 276.924 personas. Este cambio fue uno de los mayores aumentos de cualquier grupo racial/étnico singular en Virginia desde 2010 hasta 2020. Se necesitan más datos del Censo sobre los niños y jóvenes de Virginia, pero los datos demográficos del Centro de Datos KIDS COUNT por raza/etnia muestran que los niños reflejan tendencias de diversidad similares, con la cantidad de niños hispanos en Virginia aumentando en un 36,4% de 2010 a 2019.

    Es crucial obtener una representación precisa de los subgrupos de personas en Virginia para servir mejor a las necesidades de cada comunidad. Al ser conscientes de los problemas que afectan desproporcionadamente a la gente hispana y latina, se pueden implementar medidas de equidad adecuadas. En cuanto a la asistencia médica, las barreras lingüísticas pueden afectar a la calidad de la atención a través de la falta de comunicación entre el médico y el paciente, lo que muchas veces disminuye la seguridad del paciente y hace que las familias estén menos dispuestas a acceder a los servicios de salud disponibles para ellos. Otro obstáculo para esta comunidad es la condición de inmigrante que afecta al acceso a Medicaid. Medicaid permite un mayor acceso al seguro de salud para aquellos que de otro modo no estarían cubiertos; sin embargo, los inmigrantes, documentados e indocumentados, tienen más probabilidades de no estar asegurados en comparación con los ciudadanos estadounidenses. En 2019, Virginia tuvo una tasa de niños sin seguro del 5%. Sin embargo, cuando desglosamos por raza, vemos que el 12% de los niños hispanos o latinos no tenían seguro este año.

    La Regla de Carga Pública también jugó un papel en la restricción del acceso de la gente hispana/latina a las necesidades básicas. La versión de 2019 de esta regla propuso restringir el acceso más que nunca a los inmigrantes que solicitan visas y tarjetas verdes al redefinir lo que significaba ser dependiente (o probablemente dependiente) de los beneficios del gobierno. Aunque la Regla de Carga Pública nunca se aplicó, esta legislación, junto con las redadas del ICE, ha producido una importante desconfianza en el gobierno de EE.UU. para las comunidades latinas, desincentivando así a los inmigrantes a inscribirse en las prestaciones públicas.

    Aunque las barreras de acceso siguen dificultando la participación en la asistencia sanitaria, Virginia también ha hecho grandes progresos en estas áreas. El 1 de julio de 2021, Virginia amplió el Acceso Familiar al Seguro Médico (FAMIS), un programa de seguro médico de Virginia que ayuda a que la atención médica sea económica para los niños. Más de 1.500 personas embarazadas indocumentadas se han inscrito en la atención prenatal de FAMIS en sólo 2 meses. Para calificar para este programa, ya no es necesario cumplir con las reglas de estatus migratorio, proporcionar documentos de inmigración, o tener un número de Seguro Social. Lea más sobre lo que cubre esta política aquí.

    Otra política, que se hizo efectiva el 1 de abril de 2021, cambió los requisitos de cobertura de Medicaid de Virginia. Los titulares de la tarjeta verde con más de 5 años de residencia en los Estados Unidos ya no están obligados a demostrar 10 años de experiencia laboral en los Estados Unidos para estar cubiertos por Medicaid, ampliando así la cobertura del seguro. Iniciativas como estas pueden dar más eficazmente soluciones accesibles de atención sanitaria y seguro médico a las comunidades con mayor número de inmigrantes.

    Al celebrar este año el Mes de la Herencia Hispana, es importante que apreciemos a nuestros vecinos latinos y reconozcamos las disparidades que afectan a estas comunidades. Con esta compasión y comprensión, podemos lograr resultados equitativos para los niños, jóvenes y familias latinos.


  3. RTRW Event: ‘Exposing Disparities during COVID-19 & the Impact on Virginia’s Children, Youth, & Families’


    Voices for Virginia’s Children’s 2nd annual Racial Truth and Reconciliation Week (RTRW) is taking place August 22 through August 28. On Tuesday, August 24 at 9:00am, the presentation ‘Exposing Disparities during COVID-19 & the Impact on Virginia’s Children, Youth, & Families’ will be taking place. This presentation centers around COVID-19 causing inequities and exposing long-standing racial disparities among children, youth, and families across Virginia. This event features COVID-19 data, equity, and policy presentations from Latoya Hill, Senior Policy Analyst at Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) and Lauren Snellings, Research Director at Voices for Virginia’s Children. It also includes an interview-style conversation between Kelsey McMahon, Data and Research Intern for Voices, and special guest Michael Royster, the Vice President of the Institute for Public Health Innovation.

    The event focuses on the impact of the pandemic on families, the social determinants of health, and racial/ethnic disparities in health and health care prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic. The data for cases and vaccines as well as feedback from parents during the pandemic point to a greater number in cases, lower vaccine rates, and substantial financial, emotional, and housing struggles for Black, Hispanic/Latinx, and Asian populations. This event provides valuable insight into the current state of the public health sphere and allows for a space to discuss future steps to address and close gaps in health inequities.

    To learn more about the social determinants of health and equity, check out last year’s event, ‘An Overview of Child Wellbeing & Equitable Research Practices’, here.

    Click here for more information.

    Register for this virtual event here.

  4. Equity Assessments and Disaggregated Data in Action

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    Recently, the Data and Research team at Voices for Virginia’s Children conducted community equity assessments for two Trauma-Informed Community Networks (TICNs) in Virginia. These Trauma-Informed Community Networks work to identify policies that can be implemented to advance trauma-informed policy and promote a statewide policy agenda. Voices has conducted equity assessments for the Greater Richmond area TICN and the Southwest Virginia TICN (for more information on these TICNs, contact the Greater Richmond TICN, or the Southwest Virginia TICN). The assessments created for these organizations include locality level data that describe health and wellbeing of children, youth, and families at the locality level over time using the KIDS COUNT data across domains like health, access, education, and community wealth. The data in these types of assessments not only educate the public on the health and wellbeing of the communities they serve, but also assist in helping advocates in prioritizing future areas of focus. This assessment describes trends that allow for further investigation into the “why”, and looks to attendees as the experts in their communities to understand the reasons behind the trends.

    Equity assessments are an excellent way to put data into action for communities, especially when the data can be broken down to look closely at sub-populations of children. Disaggregating data geographically, racially, by age group, and economic perspective is vital in discerning how policies can disproportionately impact different communities.

    A typical equity assessment will include both an education component as well as data. All assessments start with a grounding of why data and equity are important and then conclude with a data summary including tailored visualizations by each geography of interest. These assessments can be used for policy advocacy efforts for communities all across Virginia to facilitate policy change in a multitude of different areas related to children and their families.

    The Southwest Virginia Trauma Informed Community Network (TICN) wanted to learn more about children living below the federal poverty line in Southwest Virginia counties. We found that the regional average of children living below the poverty line was 25.8% for Southwest Virginia; However, to see the full picture of child health and well-being, we need this data to be broken down even further. Upon examination, we found that Black children, Hispanic children, and children of two or more races were overrepresented living in poverty in the majority of Southwest Virginia counties. By disaggregating this data by race/ethnicity, as well as by location, the Southwest TICN can get the best picture of what each county needs and can make informed decisions on what is best for all children living in Southwest Virginia.

    If you are interested in an equity assessment or would like to learn more, please contact Lauren Snellings or Kelsey McMahon.

  5. Key Findings: Equity in Action & Equity at a Glance 

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    The Virginia Department of Health recently released two new dashboards focused on equity. One highlighting the programs and initiatives that have advanced equity during COVID-19 and the other as an assessment into the social determinants of health and equity across Virginia. To learn more about the background of these two dashboards, check out our previous blog The Virginia Department of Health releases two new Dashboards: Equity in Action & Equity at a Glance. 

    Equity in Action Dashboard:  

    The dashboard Equity in Action summarizes indicators that show the progress Virginia has made in COVID-19 response and recovery programs and other initiatives that advance the equitable distribution of resources and services. The highlights from this dashboard are listed below:    

    Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Partnerships: This area indicates the total number of masks and units of hand sanitizer distributed by the Health Equity Leadership Taskforce. Since March 2020, Virginia has distributed 1.9 million units of PPE.  

    Medicaid Expansion: This section indicates the net change in overall Medicaid program membership from January 2020 to May 2021. Before Medicaid expansion, 62 percent of Virginians surveyed were without care. Since January 2020, the Medicaid Expansion program has had a net change in enrollment of 168,400 members. From April 2021 to May 2021, there was a net change in enrollment of 8,900 members.   

    Unemployment Benefits: Represents the total amount of unemployment benefits funding provided from January 2020 to March 2021 for both initial and continued claims. Since January 2020, Virginia has provided $6.4 billion in unemployment benefits funding. In March 2021:  

    • The unemployment rate for Virginia was 5.1 percent  
    • 62,000 state unemployment benefits were provided  
    • 96,000 initial unemployment claims (in which individuals request unemployment insurance aid for the first time) were issued  
    • $156 million worth of continued unemployment claims were issued   

    Food Distribution: This is the total number of meals distributed through various programs across Virginia. Since March 2020, 131.1 million meals have been distributed. This page also includes data on the total meals distributed, Summer Food Service Program meals, School Nutrition Program meals, and Child & Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) meals per locality in Virginia.  

    Small Women and Minority Owned (SWaM) Business Support: This section shows the total number of small businesses in low income communities approved to receive funding through the Rebuild VA Fund. Since this grant started in August 2020, 1,313 small businesses have received funding out of a total of 11,700 SWaM certified businesses in Virginia. $59 million of Rebuild VA funds has been distributed to these SWaM businesses.

    Equity at a Glance Dashboard:  

    The dashboard Equity at a Glance summarizes how Virginia ranks for six health equity areas including: income and poverty, educational attainment, food access, unemployment, broadband access, and housing insecurity. The summary of findings for Virginia are below:

    Key Metrics

    For these metrics, the closer Virginia is to 1st, the better the state is doing compared to other states. Virginia is:  

    • 10th in the nation for income and poverty, 10.6 percent of the population lives in poverty. 
    • 28th in the nation for educational attainment, 89.7 percent of adults attain a High School diploma. 
    • 11th in the nation for food access, 18.1 percent of the population has low access to food. 
    • 23rd in the nation for unemployment, 5.1 percent of the labor force is unemployed. 
    • 17th in the nation for broadband access, 83.9 percent of households have access to broadband. 
    • 25th in the nation for housing insecurity, 12.5 percent of households spend over half of their income on housing.

    Income and Poverty  

    • Virginia’s median household income is $74,222, above the national median income of $62,843 
    • 865,691 Virginia residents live in poverty (10.6 percent of the population).  
    • 1.26 million Virginia residents or 39.8 percent of households are below the ALICE threshold which includes households with income above the Federal Poverty Level but below the basic cost of living.  
    • In Virginia, the average annual income per person is $39.3K. When we look by race, Hispanic ($25.8K) and Black ($28K) people make below the average annual income (White: $45K; Asian: $45.3K). 

    Educational Attainment  

    • Although Virginia is ranked 28th amongst all states in percent of adults with a high school diploma, rates in Virginia were better compared to the national average (Virginia: 89.7 percent; national average: 87.9 percent). 
    • Virginia also has higher rates of Bachelor degree or higher education level compared to the national average. (Virginia: 35.6 percent; national average: 29.6 percent). 
    • The reported SOL pass rate by race/ethnicity indicates that Asian students have a pass rate of 92 percent, White students have a pass rate of 86.4 percent, Hispanic or Latino students have a pass rate of 69.8 percent, and Black or African American students have a pass rate of 65.8 percent 

    Food Access  

    • 1.44 million people in Virginia have low access to food (18.1 percent of the population). 
    • 356,373 children have low food access (4.5 percent of the population). 
    • 13.4 percent of rural Virginia and 18.8 percent of non-rural Virginia have low food access. 


    • *Access to the unemployment section was temporarily unavailable during the creation of this blog. 

    Broadband Access  

    • Virginia’s average percent of the population with computer access and broadband is 87.5 percent 
    • Black or African American Virginia communities have the lowest access to broadband (80.4 percent). Hispanic or Latino communities are second lowest at (86.9 percent). Asian communities have the highest percent of access to broadband by race/ethnicity (96.0 percent) and White communities have the second highest (88.7 percent). 

    Housing Insecurity  

    • 12.5 percent of Virginia households experience severe cost burden, in which monthly housing cost exceeds 50 percent of household income, compared to the national average of 14.2 percent 
    • 893,210 households (28.8 percent of Virginia households) experience cost burden, in which over 30 percent of income goes to monthly housing cost.  

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  6. In Recognition of Juneteenth

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    The newly federally-recognized holiday Juneteenth celebrates the last enslaved people being freed in the United States. This day commemorates June 19th, 1865, rather than January 1st, 1863, when the Emancipation Proclamation was signed into law. This is because the last enslaved people to be informed of the abolition of slavery were finally freed on the day of Juneteenth, around two and a half years after all enslaved peoples were declared free under the law. From the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, “Juneteenth marks our country’s second independence day. Although it has long celebrated in the African American community, this monumental event remains largely unknown to most Americans. The historical legacy of Juneteenth shows the value of never giving up hope in uncertain times.”

    US society continues to be impacted tremendously by the legacy of slavery. Systemic racism is built into the very foundations of the US, from education to neighborhoods to economic opportunities. Black people are subject to structures that allow for the same racist laws of the past to exist today in different forms. For example, slavery is still legal under the loophole in the 13th Amendment that allows for involuntary servitude in the case of punishment for a crime. This technicality has an exaggerated impact on marginalized peoples, reflected in the inflated representation of Black people in the criminal and juvenile justice systems.

    Juneteenth is an important reminder that even if equality is written into law, equity is necessary and far more difficult to achieve. Equality gives everyone the same exact resources. Equity acknowledges the disparities affiliated with oppression and inequality, and therefore, distributes resources based on the needs of the recipients.

    In Virginia, 47% of children are children of color. Children of color are impacted greatly by systemic racism and racist structures. The data shows that the majority of short-term suspensions in Virginia are suspensions of Black and Hispanic students. We also know from the data that students of color do not commit more offenses in school than their White peers. This indicates differential treatment in the way discipline is assigned to children of color. In addition to short-term suspensions, a study by the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics reported that Black children were six times more likely and Latino children were three times more likely to be shot by police than their White peers. These disparities deeply impact well-being and success for Virginia’s children and families of color and highlight the systemic racial inequity in Virginia.

    While there is still a great deal of work to be done, Virginia legislators have passed some incredible policies in the past year to aid in the fight for equitable lives for children and their families. Virginia was the first state in the South to declare racism as a public health crisis and as a result of this declaration, the Commission to Examine Racial Inequity in Virginia Law was made permanent and the Virginia Department of Health’s Office of Health Equity was expanded to ensure the implementation of policies addressing racism. Recent equitable policy solutions have also been able to target individuals in Virginia who are missing out on opportunities, such as the ability to afford high quality preschool, and have also aided in removing barriers to obtaining services, such as removing the asset tests or child support enforcement compliance for benefits.

    There is much work left to be done to ensure all children and youth lead long, successful lives, regardless of their racial or ethnic identity. Voices for Virginia’s Children strives to emphasize the importance of promoting equity in this process. Just like those who continued to be enslaved after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, there are people who continue to be harmed by imbalanced social structures. Equitable practices that get to the root of these problems are necessary for Virginia’s children to be allowed to live a life free from racial and ethnic inequities. We encourage everyone to participate in Voices for Virginia’s Children Racial Truth and Reconciliation Week 2021 to help dismantle racism as a public health crisis in solidarity with those that experience racial injustices and we invite everyone to join us in recognizing and lifting up Juneteenth, this Saturday, June 19.

    Check out this video, featuring staff member Chlo’e Edwards, from our partners at UMFS Project life.

    Learn more about Juneteenth.