Supported by a national network of nonprofits, foundations and consortia, Kids Count includes members from all 50 United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. St. Croix Foundation for Community Development (SCF) was invited in January 2020 to lead the Kids Count initiative for the U.S. Virgin Islands. Launched in 1990, the National Kids Count Data Book is widely used as a means of sharing critical data about the welfare of children at the federal, state and local levels; it is aimed at increasing public advocacy and informing policy and decision-making in states, the district and territories.
Kids Count Network partners collect local data related to child well-being and are tasked with disseminating their findings publicly through a local Data Book and other communication formats that promote local engagement and action. Geared toward the needs of local Virgin Island communities, St. Croix Foundation is designing tools and strategies to tell the story about how children in the Virgin Islands are faring in multiple and compelling ways. Central to its approach will be identifying “hot spots,” as well “bright spots,” among quantitative data indicators, while also presenting the findings from a systems perspective. SCF’s plans for Kids Count are grounded in two central premises:
(1) data is information that can tell a powerful story, and that story can be told in multiple formats, and
(2) while data is necessary, it is also insufficient without a focused emphasis on advocacy and engagement that shifts public policy and leads to collective action that improves outcomes for children.
“We are all connected,” said Lilli Cox, senior program officer at St. Croix Foundation. “Our vision is to create a local Kids Count Network in which every member of our community – every organization and agency – sees themselves in the data and is empowered to activate levers within the system to improve the lives of our children, youth and families.”
One of the striking indicators presented in the 2020 National Data Book focuses on American children living in poverty. In a decades-long trend, Black and Native American children in the nation represented the highest populations of children living in poverty, hovering at 32 percent and 31 percent, respectively, in 2020. The national average is 18 percent (Annie E. Casey Foundation).
In the U.S. Virgin Islands, the rate of child poverty correlates to national statistics. According to the 2019 V.I. Kids Count Data Book, child poverty rates in 2013 and 2014 were 35 percent and 37 percent, respectively. The rate decreased to 30 percent in 2015; however, in that same year, the national rate of child poverty was 21 percent (Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands).
The St. Croix Foundation is developing a progressive platform for the territory’s Kids Count initiative, connecting with major governmental agencies that produce territorial data related to child and family well-being. Having joined the Kids Count National Network this past January, SCF’s goal is to produce a territorial snapshot in the fall of 2020, with the expectation that the 2020 Census, along with local governmental data, will provide current data for a deeper assessment and trend analyses of our children’s welfare in 2021 and beyond.
St. Croix Foundation will also rely on the participation of its nonprofit consortium (NPC) on St. Croix to help build and support community engagement and advocacy for Kids Count. Founded one year prior to hurricanes Irma and Maria, the NPC’s 30-plus, nonprofit members started to network and collaborate around shared work in four sectors: youth and education, health and human services, arts and culture and the built and natural environs.
The strength of these nonprofits’ collective capacity and ability to work together was tested post-Maria as they served as first responders, meeting the needs of families and communities impacted by the storms. The SCF Kids Count team is also reaching out to local nonprofit leaders on St. Thomas and St. John to enlist their support for a collaborative effort that will increase stakeholder engagement, advocacy and policy action.
According to SCF’s President Deanna James, “St. Croix Foundation has spent almost 30 years building a holistic portfolio of high impact programming and investments, and we are honored to have been selected by AECF to lead this important work. Today, we are grounding our Kids Count strategy in an unwavering commitment to addressing the needs of the whole child. We ultimately believe that by honing in on targeted pressure AECF Releases 2020 National Kids Count Data Book points, our territory can activate the data in the Kids Count Data Book and, in turn, reduce vulnerabilities, build reinforced safety nets and improve overall outcomes for all children.”
About St. Croix Foundation: St. Croix Foundation for Community Development is a place-based operating foundation in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Founded 30 years ago in the wake of Hurricane Hugo, it has been dedicated to the issues of equity and holistic, community-rooted development. It has directed laser focus and resources on highly strategic grantmaking, direct services and community building. For more information on Kids Count, visit the St. Croix Foundation website: www.stxfoundation.org
About Annie E. Casey Foundation: The Annie E. Casey Foundation was established in 1948 and is devoted to developing a brighter future for millions of children at risk of poor educational, economic, social and health outcomes. AECF focuses on strengthening families, building stronger communities and ensuring access to opportunity through grants that help federal agencies, states, counties, cities and neighborhoods create more innovative, cost-effective responses to the issues that negatively affect children. www.aecf.org