A few months ago, I was working at a childcare center in South Los Angeles handing out information about the 2020 Census when I met a mother with a familiar story. This mother, like many other parents, received a census questionnaire in the mail along with numerous reminders to complete it. She didn’t think it was important or that it was simply the government’s way of trying to invade her privacy. Maybe she didn’t fully understand what the “census” was. Without hesitation, these forms all ended up in the trash.
That day, her view on the census changed entirely. As this mother went about her usual business to sign out her child from the center, she overheard me, the “Census Guy” (as I’ve come to be known in my community), talking to parents and staff. I was speaking about the importance of the census for both children and their families and how it affects our communities and the amount of resources we get for the next 10 years.
“Hey, is that true?” the mother asked.
“Yes, it is,” I smiled. I shared with her a flyer on the census. For the next 10 minutes, she asked me a flurry of questions. We talked about the history of the census, why it happens, and how it impacts our children, families, and communities alike.
“It also impacts you,” I ended. Shocked and upset that she allowed so many years go by without completing her census, I told her
“Today is the day you can change that.” She committed to filling out her census for her and her family. As I left the center that day, I overheard her doing what I was doing when she met me — talking to other parents about the importance of completing the census.
That day reminded me of the importance of the work that I do every day as a Census Outreach Coordinator with Crystal Stairs, Inc., a nonprofit organization that serves children and families to provide them better futures.
That’s exactly why the census is so important: it’s about better futures. And that’s exactly why counting our children is so important: they are our future.
Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau counts every person living in the United States — regardless of their race, ethnicity, immigration status, or age. Data from the census helps determine where billions of dollars go to critical community resources for our children and families such as schools, parks, Head Start and Early Head Start, WIC, and SNAP programs across Los Angeles. If we want the brightest future for our families, we need every person — including every child — to be counted on the 2020 census.
However, our communities are at risk of not being counted. Historically, children — particularly those ages 0-5 — are the most undercounted demographic group on the census. In the 2010 census, nearly one in every 10 children were not counted on the census. And approximately seven percent of all young African American children were overlooked by the 2010 census.
Because of census undercounts, our communities lose millions of dollars every year. But it’s never too late for us to think about the future and reclaim these resources for our communities. The two young mothers who founded Crystal Stairs, Inc. over 40 years ago had a dream that all parents have: children learning, parents thriving, and communities bursting from the pride and success of nurturing children and families into better futures.
One way to live out this dream and make it a reality is the simple act of filling out your census form for your family. It’s fast, safe, and important.
You can complete your census in several ways: online at my2020census.gov, by phone at 844-330-2020, or by mail if you received a paper form. When you fill out the census, your responses are protected by the law and cannot be shared with other government agencies and organizations.
For example, your landlord will not be able to access your responses. Make sure you count everyone living in your household, including young children. Then help spread the word! Just like the mother who became a census champion after learning about how important the census is, anyone can be an advocate for the census. Help bring resources to our children, families, and communities.
By filling out the census and making sure to count your children today, you are playing a critical role in building a better future for our children, parents, and communities to thrive into the next 10 years and beyond.
[Kayo Johnson is the Census Campaign Coordinator at Crystal Stairs, Inc. in South Los Angeles. Johnson is a census campaign partner and part of the We Count Los Angeles Campaign comprised of more than 100 grassroots organizations committed to ensuring that everyone is counted in the 2020 Census]