Kids Count! Shape Children's Future in Census


There is a lot at stake with the upcoming 2020 Census. Counting all of our young children will be especially important.

Population statistics — the number of people counted — are used by local, state, and federal lawmakers to determine how to spend billions of dollars in federal and state funds annually over the next 10 years. A large portion of those dollars go towards funding programs that directly affect our children. The statistical population count not only helps to determine how much funding should go toward roads and bridges, but also toward local funding for many programs in our schools, clinics, and neighborhoods.

Band member Shelly Diaz is the Urban Liaison/Project Coor- dinator for the Chief Executive’s office assigned to oversee the census efforts in Mille Lacs. "We are relying greatly on trusted voices in our community to help get the word out that every person — no matter how young or old — is counted," said Shelly. "People often don't realize the impact of counting our kids, especially the babies. This census will impact our com- munity for the next ten years. Our children may be just babies now, but think about what they may need over the course of the next 10 years."

Shelly stated many parents and adults with young children living with them often don’t realize they need to include all children who live with them full time or at least most of the time. Knowing how many children live in a community is the foundation of many important decisions made locally that are driven by changes in population, and often by the growth in the number of children. "A new school may be needed because of increased births in one area," Shelly said. "But the school might not be built if all newborns and toddlers — future schoolchildren — are not counted."

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in the last census in 2010, nearly 1 million children (4.6 percent of children under the age of 5) were not counted.

Why are young children missed?

Sometimes children are missed simply because adults in their households don’t return the census questionnaire. Most often, however, Shelly said people don’t count everyone under their roof. They may leave off young children who live with them or may be staying with them temporarily.

"This happens often in the 'complex households' — those with multiple generations of a family and/or unrelated families living together, and blended or foster families," Shelly said. In the 2010 Census, about 40 percent of all young children fell under the complex household category, according to the Cen- sus Bureau.

Sometimes, families live in homes with limits on how many people are supposed to reside in each unit. This leaves people reluctant to report everyone who lives there because the landlord may learn there are more people living under one roof than there should be.

"Also, sometimes other people are living in the household too, or staying there temporarily until they can find a permanent home or 'couch surfing.' The householder simply may not think to count them at all on the questionnaire."

But they should. Every single response on the 2020 Census questionnaire is confidential and protected by law. Your answers cannot be shared with any law enforcement or immigration agency, housing management, state or tribal governments, or even the cashier at the grocery store. The information collected is used only to produce statistics.

It’s important to count young children now so they have the resources they need as they grow up.

"We need our children especially to be counted because it will affect our community for the next 10 years," Shelly said. "Children are the foundation and future of our communities, and we need proper programs that will support our kids in their formative years."

Count children in the right place

If you have children in your home, make sure they are counted in the right place.

The general rule is: Count children in the home where they live and sleep most of the time, even if their parents do not live there.

If you've just had a baby, and your baby is still in the hospital on Census Day (April 1, 2020), then count your baby at the home where he or she will live and sleep most of the time.

If children spend time in more than one home, count them where they stay most often. If their time is evenly divided, or if you do not know where they stay most often, count them where they are staying on April 1, 2020.

If you are helping to take care of a friend's or family member's child, and the child does not have a permanent place to live, count the child if he or she is staying with you on April 1, 2020 — even if it's only temporary.