As we collectively recover from the pandemic and other hardships, WCA and Campaign for Kids (CFK) continues to support the well-being of children, teens and families. We offer our recommendations for the 2023 Westchester County Budget.
Our recommendations this year place children’s mental, social, emotional, and physical health and wellbeing front and center. Recognizing that children, youth, and families have access to different resources, both during this time of the pandemic and long before it, we aim to promote equity throughout Westchester County.
Invest in Kids
• Expand existing funding for Invest in Kids programs to address the increase of applications. This will allow the 57 current programs impacting thousands of Westchester youth to continue providing critical care and new providers to augment services.
Why is this important? All Invest in Kids programs keep children and youth safe, support working families, and foster academic success. They fill a critical need in communities, especially now, by creating and strengthening connections for children during this time of rapid change and uncertainty.
Child & Youth Homelessness and Affordable Housing
• Increase investments and access to affordable housing in Westchester.
• Broaden the Westchester County definition of homelessness and create “adequate”, “safe” and “secure” standards for housing so that more children, youth, and families qualify for support
• Support the needs of doubled- and tripled-up children and families, by connecting the Westchester County Department of Social Services and childcare subsidy to support overcrowded families.
Why is this important? All experiences of homelessness traumatically impact the socio-emotional well-being of children and youth, resulting in a wide range of short-term and long-term effects on their physical, emotional, and mental health and can also lead to developmental delays, behavioral issues and education and learning difficulties.
Early Childhood and Home Visiting Support:
• Increase Home Visiting Funding and find legislative pathways to offer universal home visiting
• Maintain existing funding for Westchester Works Child Care Scholarship, totaling $3.3 million
• Look for strategies to improve the availability of childcare for children and youth experiencing homeless.
Why is this important? Quality early childhood education and home visiting supports are crucial for improving maternal and child health outcomes, promoting socio-emotional well-being, and increasing school readiness. Unfortunately, the high expenses of early childhood education and childcare put many children and families at a disadvantage.
Children’s Mental Health
• Dedicate $100,000 tax-levy funding to expand and enhance mental health supports for school age children
• Work with stakeholder groups including nonprofits, government, and families/youth to advance social and emotional wellbeing of children
• Convene a workgroup to analyze the data and find workable long- and short-term solutions to support the full continuum of care needed
• Conduct virtual education forums and/or in-person workshops to advance the racing equity framework described by Dr. Kira Hudson Banks
Why is this important? Westchester’s children and youth continue to overcome the hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, and are currently facing unprecedented educational challenges, learning loss and the unmatched stress of family trauma and financial difficulties. Now as we collectively recover, Westchester must prioritize and advance children’s mental health to repair the damage of the pandemic and long-standing inequities.