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Author Archives: Lauren Snellings

  1. 2022 KIDS COUNT Data Book Release

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    The 2022 KIDS COUNT Data Book was recently released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, an annually published resource that tracks child well-being nationally as well as state by state and ranks the states accordingly. The report is based on the latest available data for 16 key indicators. Policymakers, researchers, and advocates can continue to use this information to help shape their work and build a stronger future for children, families, and communities.

    View the full 2022 Data Book.

    The 2022 report includes the most recent data from 2020. Due to several challenges in data collection during the pandemic, several years of data needed to be aggregated for stable results. A letter from the Annie E. Casey Foundation President, Lisa Hamilton, highlights the most recent data we have that reflect how parents and families are faring during the pandemic. This letter highlights the 1.5 million children who are struggling to make it through the day.

    Overall, Virginia is ranked 13th in the nation. The data in this year’s report include both pre-pandemic and more recent figures. Here’s where Virginia lands in each domain:

    • Economic well-being: Virginia saw improvements in all four indicators compared to 2008-2012. There are 24,000 fewer children living in poverty and the percentage of children in families with no full-time employment decreased by 8% from 2016-2022. Additionally, the percent of teenagers who are not in school and are unemployed decreased by 29%. However, there are still 242,000 children living below a family income of $26,246 for a family of four.
    • Education: Virginia is in the top 10 at 6th place. The percentage of high school students not graduating on time decreased from 18% to 13% (2010-2011 vs. 2018-2019).
    • Health: Virginia ranks 24th. The percent of children without health insurance, improved from 7% to 5% from 2008-12 to 2016-20. But that is the only indicator to improve during the trend year. Children born with low birth weight, child and teen deaths, as well as child obesity increased.
    • Family and community factors: Virginia ranks 17th place. Teen birth rates dropped from 27 per 1,000 females to 13 per 1,000 females in 2010 to 13% in 2020, and the percent of children living in households where the head of household lacks a high school degree went from 10% to 9%. However, children in single parent households (31%) and children living in high poverty areas (5%) from trend years 2008-2012 to 2016-2020 remain the same.

    The Virginia KIDS COUNT data center includes these indicators and hundreds more at the state and even local level over time. For example, interested in learning more about the percent of children in poverty across Virginia? The Virginia KIDS COUNT data center has data available by locality and race. Learn more.

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  2. Update on Census Data

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    The 2016-2020 5-Year Estimates from the American Community Survey (ACS) will be released by the Census Bureau on March 17, 2022. While these types of data are typically released in December, the delays in data were necessary due to concerns of non-response bias for the data collected during 2020. After revising its methodology, the Census Bureau has determined that the data is fit for release and use.

    The American Community Survey is a continuous nationwide survey that samples 3.5 million residences each year. It is used to provide reliable and timely demographic, socioeconomic and housing data.

    Several geographies are available for the results including national, state, counties, subdivisions, tracts, block groups, cities, zip codes, metropolitan areas, American Indian reservations, congressional districts, state legislative districts, school districts, urbanized areas, and rural areas.

    Topics covered by the results include age, race and Hispanic origin, family structure, citizenship, disability educational attainment/enrollment, employment status of parents, health insurance, group quarters population, income and poverty, language, and housing characteristics.

    Data is collected in both 1-year and 5-year estimates. While 1-year estimates provide the most up-to-date picture of how people are doing in the commonwealth, 5-year estimates are the most reliable and are typically used when analyzing smaller geographies.

    Voices for Virginia’s Children Data and Research program rely on Census data to analyze several determinants of health that we then share with decision makers and the public including:

    • Total child populations
    • Childhood poverty cutoffs (50%, 100%, 200%)
    • Children with parents in labor force
    • Median income of families
    • Children in single parent households

    Several of these indicators are also available by race.


    Keep a look out for updated information from Voices for Virginia’s Children Research and Data program in April, and if you have any questions about this or any other data, please don’t hesitate to contact Research Director, Lauren Snellings at

  3. 2021 KIDS COUNT Data Book Release

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    The 2021 KIDS COUNT Data Book was released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, an annually published resource that tracks child well-being nationally as well as state by state and ranks the states accordingly. The report is based on the latest available data for 16 key indicators and also identifies multi-year trends, comparing statistics from 2010 to 2019. Policymakers, researchers, and advocates can continue to use this information to help shape their work and build a stronger future for children, families, and communities.

    View the full 2021 Data Book.

    For the 2021 report, which includes the most recent data from 2019, so it does not reflect current conditions amidst the COVID-19 crisis, we can use this data to predict what could occur. In addition to the report, a letter from the President, Lisa Hamilton, highlights the most recent data we have that reflect how parents and families are faring during the pandemic.

    Overall, Virginia is ranked 13th in the nation, improving a rank since the previous year. The 2021 Data Book shows improvement in Virginia on five indicators in the KIDS COUNT Index, including:

    • Children in poverty
    • Children that lack secure employment
    • Children living in households with a high housing cost burden
    • Child and teen deaths per 100,000
    • Children living in high-poverty areas

    In five areas, indicators worsened:

    • Teens not in school and not working
    • 8th graders not proficient in math
    • 4th graders not proficient in reading
    • Low birth-weight babies
    • Children and teens (ages 10 to 17) who are overweight or obese

    Six indicators stayed the same:

    • High school students not graduating on time
    • Children in families where the household head lacks a high school diploma
    • Teen births
    • Children without health insurance
    • Young children (ages 3 and 4) not in school
    • Children in single-parent families

    Virginia ranked 14th in Economic Well-Being and improved in 3 out of the 4 indicators since 2010. Highlights include:

    • There was a 2% decrease for children whose parents lack secure employment from 2018 to 2019.
    • Teens not in school and not working increased from 2018 to 2019.

    Virginia ranked 6th in Education and worsened in 2 out of the 4 indicators and remained the same in the other 2 indicators. Highlights include:

    • A 5% decrease in the percent of fourth-graders reading at proficiency from 2017 to 2019.
    • A 2% decrease in the percent of eight-graders scoring proficient at math from 2017 to 2019.

    Virginia ranked 18th in Family and Community and improved in 1 out of the 4 indicators and remained the same in the other 3 indicators.

    Virginia ranked 24th in Health. For this domain, Virginia stayed the same for 1, improved in 1, and worsened for 2 of the 4 indicators. Highlights include:

    • Although the percent of children without health insurance remained the same from 2018 to 2019, 5,000 more children had insurance.
    • A decrease in the child and teen death rate from 2018 to 2019.

    The Virginia KIDS COUNT data center includes these indicators and hundreds more at the state and even local level over time. For example, interested in learning more about the percent of children in poverty across Virginia? The Virginia KIDS COUNT data center has data available by locality and race. Learn more.

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  4. Virginia Department of Health Releases Two Dashboards: Equity in Action & Equity at a Glance


    The Virginia Department of Health has released two new dashboards focused on equity: Equity in Action & Equity at a Glance. Equity in Action highlights data related to programs and initiatives that have addressed equity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Equity at a Glance serves as an assessment into the social determinants of health and equity across Virginia.

    These two dashboards were developed in the response to House Joint Resolution 537 declaring racism as a public health crisis.

    “The social, economic, education, and health-related initiatives offered by the Commonwealth of Virginia must be built on a foundation of equity. In order to operationalize and sustain diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), the Commonwealth passed Virginia Code Section 2.2-435.12, which requires Virginia’s Chief Diversity Officer to conduct an equity assessment.”

    The navigation of the site provides both an overview at the state and local level in the six health equity topic areas:

    • income and poverty,
    • educational attainment,
    • food access,
    • unemployment,
    • broadband access
    • and housing insecurity.

    Each topic area includes several metrics that summarize the advancement made and opportunity for growth. These dashboards also display a scorecard for both the state and local level, ranking localities within Virginia and comparing Virginia to national averages. This dashboard allows for the disaggregation of indicators including an array of data visualizations that highlight disparities across race and ethnicity, education, income, geography and rurality.

    It is promising to see equity highlighted in action on the ONE Virginia Strategic Plan for Inclusive Excellence. We are also excited that future versions of these dashboards will include an expanded set of topic areas such as workforce diversity and criminal justice metrics. Over the next month, we will release a series of blogs highlighting the findings of each dashboard.

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  5. Zero to Three State of Babies Yearbook: 2021

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    Voices for Virginia’s Children is happy support the release of the State of Babies Yearbook: 2021 from our partners Zero to Three. This Yearbook resource includes downloadable, user-friendly reports, that include 60 indicators of wellbeing and policies to gauge how babies in Virginia are doing. This resource gives a pre-pandemic snapshot of key indicators related to specific topics. It also provides advocates and states leaders the ability to explore the data by race, ethnicity, and income.

    The story told this year includes the ingrained barriers families faced before the pandemic. The heightened challenges during the crisis points to the urgency of a national agenda of bold, durable policies that address deep-seated inequities and give every baby the ingredients to thrive. Here are some highlights pertaining to Virginia:


    • Virginia is home to 299,132 babies, representing 3.5 percent of the state’s population.
    • As many as 31.7 percent live in households with incomes less than twice the federal poverty line (in 2019, about $51,500 a year for a family of four), placing them at economic disadvantage.

    Good Health

    • Virginia performs better than national averages on key indicators, such as the percentages of babies breastfed at 6 months (62.2 percent);
    • and babies receiving recommended vaccinations (77.8 percent)
    • and mothers reporting less than optimal mental health (16.4 percent).
    • The state is performing worse than national averages on indicators such as the percentages of babies receiving preventive dental care (27.4 percent);
    • and uninsured babies in families with low income (5.7 percent).

    Strong Families

    • The state’s ranking in this domain reflects indicators on which it is performing better than the national average, such as the percentages of babies living in crowded housing (10.1 percent);
    • and babies experiencing housing instability, moved 3 or more times (1.0 percent).
    • Virginia is doing worse than the national average on indicators such as the percentages of parents who report being resilient (80.1 percent), in fact we rank at the very bottom of this indicator.

    Positive Early Learning Experiences

    • The state’s ranking in this domain reflects indicators on which it is performing better than the national average, such as the higher percentage of parents who report singing songs (61.5 percent).
    • Virginia is doing worse than the national average on indicators such as the lower percentage of infants and toddlers who received a developmental screening (29.5 percent).

    Read the full State of Babies Yearbook now.

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  6. Intern Wanted: Data and Research Program, Voices for Virginia’s Children

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    Voices for Virginia’s Children is seeking to fill a master level data internship position for the summer of 2021. This master level internship opportunity in applied data research would fill up to 120 hours, and would be paid a stipend of up to $1,800. The internship will be over the course of summer 2021 and/or fall 2021, if necessary to complete requirements. This position intends to primarily be remote with the potential for office time in the fall. This position will be directly supervised by our Research Director with the potential to work with other departments such as fundraising, policy, and outreach. Experience in research and data maintenance (downloading, cleaning) with excellent Excel skills is required.

    Voices for Virginia’s Children is a statewide multi-issue policy, advocacy, and data organization. Our research and data program is home to the KIDS COUNT DATA center. We represent Virginia in being the go-to statewide source for child health and wellbeing data with the most variety and depth of topics at both the state and locality level. Tracking hundreds of indicators over time and by categories like race, education, income, and gender, we apply our data to the policy and advocacy process, creating the best solutions for all children in Virginia.

    To apply: Please send an email introduction with resume and any internship requirements to by April 16, 2021.

  7. Asian American Trauma Impacting Virginia’s Children

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    There has been a 46% increase in acts of violence and discrimination of Asian Americans in the past year.

    According to data released by Stop AAPI Hate:

    • 3,800 reports of violence that ranged from stabbings, beatings, to deaths, were completed over the past year (March 19,2020-February 28th, 2021) of the pandemic for Asian Americans, which is significantly higher than the previous year’s number (2,600).
    • Of these assaults, youth up to age 17 made up over 12% of the incidents. 
    • Virginia made the list of the states with the greatest rate (11 rank at 1.29 and 49 cases).

    These numbers are powerful data points that partially quantify the scope of discrimination Asian Americans experience. These numbers only represent a small portion of the crimes that have actually occurred. There are several data challenges that point to rates much higher than we know. The Justice Department and FBI are required by a 1990 Hate Crime Statistics Act to publish an annual report on hate crime statistics. This source is the most comprehensive look at hate crimes across the country; however, incomplete due to the inconsistency of required reporting of law enforcement agencies. Out of the 18,000 agencies across the US, nearly 3,000 of them did not report data in 2019. In addition to the lack of reporting, under reporting of individuals who have experienced a hate crime is also common. Those individuals may be scared of retaliation or think that it wasn’t reportable due to the type or scope of the incident.

    In addition to underreporting by both the victim and law enforcement agencies, another challenge is the way in which race groups for those of Asian race are lumped together. In a study conducted by Washington Center for Equitable Growth in 2016, there are a many as 50 different races and ethnicities that can be classified under the broad term Asian American or Pacific Islander. By lumping race groups together and not capturing all the unique races and ethnicities that the term Asian race contains, it limits a complete picture of the patterns and trends occurring, which prohibit evidence-based solutions to be implemented equitably amongst all in the Asian community.

    What we do know is trauma, like the violence experienced by Asian Americans, impacts children. According to Census data obtained by the Virginia Kids Count Data Center:

    It is unclear what projections of percentages of child poverty will be in the coming future. Federal legislation like the Family First Act and the EITC amendment, will aid families with some economic relief, but other unknown factors such as the unemployment rate and when public health restrictions are lifted prohibit a clear picture. 

    Our goal is to ensure no child or person experiences a hate crime or any type of violence. Children experiencing trauma, which can be a single event or multiple events, can having lasting impacts on the individuals physical, social, emotion, or spiritual well-being. Racism is a driving factor that impacts the social determinant of our personal and public health, family economic security, housing, food security, and education. Immediately, we are seeing impact in decisions parents are making regarding children’s immediate learning environment in places like Fairfax County Public Schools in Northern Virginia, which is the largest district in Virginia.  According to  a recent presentation of the Fairfax school board regarding back to school instruction, in the spring of 2021 just over 30 percent of Asian families selected face-to-face instruction. This was the smallest return rate among any racial group in the district. While we may not have data like this is available for every school district across the state, it certainly verifies trends we are seeing in which violence and racism is visibly impacting children. A recent study of Asian American Youth found that one in 4 had been victims of racist bullying during the pandemic.

    One immediate step to address the reported rise in violence that legislators have taken includes the creation of an Asian American and Pacific Islander Caucus.  Only meeting for the first time last week on National Day of Action and Healing to Stop Asian Hate, proclaimed by Governor Northam, this group has the potential to address root causes of this trauma at the policy level. 

    At Voices for Virginia’s Children, we are home to the Racial Truth campaign that serves to empower the voice of marginalized communities working on policy topics that address the severe effects of systemic oppression and intuitional inequality.  This is why we supported the resolution to declare racism as a public health crisis, and will continue to use both an equity and trauma lenses in all policy, advocacy, and data work we prioritize.

  8. New Child Abuse and Neglect Data

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    The Voices for Virginia’s Children KIDS COUNT Data Center is constantly updating and adding new indicators. Did you know that we track child abuse and neglect data from the Department of Social Services for both Virginia and its localities? We track both the number of children and cases who were involved in family assessments and founded investigations. When a case of suspected child abuse or neglect is reported, the local Department of Social Services decides whether to conduct a family assessment or an investigation.  Investigations are either founded or unfounded. A single child could be the victim of multiple founded investigations or an investigation could include multiple children, which is why we request completed reports and the number of children in those reports. Also new this year is the ability to look at child abuse and neglect numbers by subgroups, including age, race, and gender.

    Some highlights:

    • There were just shy of 39,000 children who were a part of a family assessment within 24,684 completed reports in State Fiscal Year (SFY) 2020 [7/1/2019 – 6/30/2020]. This was a 9 percent decrease in children and an 8 percent decrease in reports from SFY 2019 (children: 42, 943; reports: 26,902).
    • There were 5,792 children and 3,789 completed reports who were a part of a founded investigation of child abuse and neglect in SFY 2020. This is a 10 percent decrease for both children and completed reports from SYF 2019 (children: 6,413; completed reports: 4,211).
    • There are a large number of unknown ages collected for both family assessments and founded cases [family assessments: 905 ; founded investigations: 194].
    • Gender breakdowns were very similar across family assessments (male: 51 percent ; female 49 percent) and founded investigations (male: 47.9 percent; female: 52.1 percent).
    • Race/ ethnicity were not collected in mutually exclusive categories. Out of the total number of children in both founded and family assessments, almost 70 percent identified as White (founded: 69.6 percent; family assessment: 68.1 percent), one third identified as Black (founded: 31.1 percent; family assessment: 29.7 percent) and 10 percent identified as Hispanic ethnicity (founded: 11.9 percent; family assessment: 10.5 percent).

    It is still unclear what role the pandemic has played in these numbers and whether these decreases in both children and completed reports in SFY 2020 are due to a true decline in cases, a drop in reporting, or perhaps even administrative impacts  and capacity to local social services agencies. The policy team will continue to collect anecdotal evidence within their networks of service organizations, departments, and impacted communities to give voice to this data and help us connect the dots.

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  9. An Update on the Census

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    The 2020 Census has come and passed, but the data and results from the surveys are still being tabulated.

    Last spring and summer, Census officials worked diligently to make sure we counted each and every person living in the United States. Since young children are the most missed demographic group in the Census, Research Director Lauren Snellings served as a trusted voice and advocate as a member of the Complete Count Commission, ensuring that each child in Virginia was counted. An accurate count makes sure that Virginia get its share in funding for government programs like SNAP and WIC, determines where we build new hospitals, schools, and roads, and even informs the boundaries for our legislative districts. 

    Now that collecting the survey data is complete, the Census Bureau is working on processing the data which involves data verification that results in final population numbers being sent to President Biden. After population totals are delivered to the president, the process continues on to demographic data at a smaller geography that is used to inform the redistricting process in the state. 

    “If this were a typical decade, we would be on the verge of delivering the first round of redistricting data from the 2020 Census,” said James Whitehorne, Chief of the Redistricting and Voting Rights Data Office. “Our original plan was to deliver the data in state groupings starting February 18, 2021 and finishing by March 31, 2021.”

    However this is not a normal decade and the pandemic has significantly delayed timelines. The deadline to get state population counts to the president is now April 30 and the data needed to inform the redistricting process in Virginia — including count of population by race, ethnicity, voting age, housing occupancy status, and group questions population at the census block level — won’t be available until at least September 30.

    Concerns of racial gerrymandering, following the congressional districts drawn from the previous census, has changed the way in which new boundaries will be drawn this time around. On November 3, 2020, Virginia voters approved a constitutional amendment establishing a commission-driven congressional and state legislative redistricting process. This commission is comprised of 16 members, including eight legislators and eight non-legislator members. 

    Due to the delay in getting redistricting data to the commission, it appears that the upcoming General Election this fall will be run on existing boundaries; however, this has still yet to be determined. Groups like the VA Counts Coalition, led by the Virginia Civic Engagement Table, are working hard to hold the redistricting committee accountable and advocate for greater transparency into the process.

    Learn more about the KIDS COUNT Data Center and subscribe to receive data emails.

  10. New KIDS COUNT Data Available: February 2021

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    A new year means new data. The Virginia KIDS COUNT data center has just updated 16 indicators in the areas of demographics, poverty, and economic well-being. See the full list below. We also have new data including child TANF participation and three new indicators by race including children receiving child care subsidies, child SNAP participation, and child TANF participation. 

    • Childhood Poverty below 100% 
    • Childhood Poverty below 200%
    • Childhood Poverty below 100% (1-year estimates)
    • Childhood Poverty below 100% by race
    • Children under 6 with parents in labor force
    • Median income of families with own children in household
    • All Virginia residents in poverty
    • Children living in deep poverty
    • Children in poverty living in deep poverty
    • Child population by race
    • Total Child population
    • Children living in single parent households
    • On-time high school graduation
    • On-time high school graduation by subgroup
    • Children receiving child care subsidies
    • Child SNAP participation

    A few highlights to mention from the 2019 data for children:

    • There are over 1.8 million children living in the commonwealth
    • While the racial demographics of the Commonwealth have become more diverse in the last decade, little change has occurred since 2018. In 2019, the race breakdown of children is:
      • American Indian and Alaskan Native: <0.5%
      • Asian: 6%
      • Black: 20%
      • Hispanic: 14%
      • Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander: <.5%
      • 2 or more races: 6%
      • White: 53%
    • 71% of children have all available parents in the labor force.
    • 13% of children live below the poverty line. About 1 in 3 or 31% live below 200% of the federal poverty line.
      • American Indian: 3%
      • Asian & Pacific Islander: 6%
      • Black: 26%
      • Hispanic: 18%
      • 2 or more races: 15%
      • White: 8%

    The most recent data highlights minor improvements in economic wellbeing, however, continued worsening inequities among race and ethnic groups. With the demographics of Virginia’s children becoming more diverse, having the most up to date data disaggregated is crucial for policymakers, advocates, and researchers to monitor the progress of health and wellbeing and building a stronger future for all children in the Commonwealth. 

    (*State level estimates are evaluated using 1-year ACS data. Locality level estimated are evaluated using 5-year ACS data, most recently the 2015-2019 estimates).

    To learn more, check out the Virginia KIDS COUNT data center.