We started the year by releasing the 21st edition of our annual KIDS COUNT report, a visually-oriented look at the well-being of children in Nebraska. Our special commentary for this report was “A Changing Nebraska: How demographic shifts impact children.” In it we examined how Nebraska’s demographics have changed in recent history and how they are expected to continue to change. By 2050, we expect Nebraska’s population to be older, more diverse, more urban, and have more variation in family types.
As the independent voice for Nebraska children for more than 28 years, we pride ourselves on “telling the whole story” on Nebraska kids. We lived up to that promise through the release of our absenteeism and truancy brief in late January and our Family Bottom Line Report in February. The Family Bottom Line came with an interactive tool on the family budget that customizes average expenses by Nebraska county and family size. This report shows why our current efforts to raise the minimum wage in Nebraska is so important. Voices for Children also commissioned a poll in March showing that a solid majority of Nebraskans support raising the minimum wage.
Throughout the legislative session, we produced info graphics, utilizing the latest research and data, to communicate our issues to policy makers and citizens. As a result of our advocacy efforts, we achieved significant legislative achievements during the 2014 session. Among the victories was LB 464, a significant juvenile justice reform bill requiring that the cases of most youth start in juvenile court rather than adult criminal court.
We brought much-need attention to racial disparities in child well-being after a new Race for Results study from the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that Nebraska ranked below the national average in well-being for children of color. We convened a panel discussion at Boys Town that explored how to create an environment where all kids are positioned to thrive. Our work on racial equity will continue through a Race Matters conference slated for December 3-4 this year in Omaha.
While we have achieved much in the first half of 2014, we don’t have much time for reflection as the rest of the year promises to be a busy one at Voices for Children. We are currently doing our 3-year strategic planning for the organization and setting our policy road map, the pro-kid agenda, for 2015 and beyond.
We will also be unveiling our Vote Kids website next month. This website will educate and communicate where our gubernatorial and legislative candidates stand on issues important for kids.
Planning is also in full force for our annual Spotlight Gala which is set for September 13. We will once again shine a light on children and those who seek to help them every day.
Through all our endeavors, we promise to keep “telling the whole story” for Nebraska kids. Thanks for listening!