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I can give you real time data about the social media feed Bodega Cats of Instagram.
I can tell you how many Twitter followers Kim Kardashian has to the minute.
And yet, if you asked me how many child abuse cases were reported in Westchester County last week, I wouldn’t be able to tell you anything. If you asked me how many cases were reported in New York State last week I wouldn’t be able to tell you.
In New York City, things are a little better – they track and release data on a monthly basis, but the most current data available would be for February of this year. Unfortunately for us, the most current publicly available data we have on Westchester County child abuse is only provided on an annual basis, and the most recent data we have is 2015.
This isn’t just an issue with the state child welfare system. In some cases, we would be lucky to get 2015 data. The data we have on chronic absence and suspension by race are applicable to the 2013-14 school year. We run into the same problem when we try to find out current figures on poverty, health, and sometimes even education. We are having conversations about our children’s present and future based on data that, in many cases, is several years old.
I feel that I know more about what happened with Bodega Cats of Instagram and Kim Kardashian last week than I know about what happened with Westchester’s children last year.
This data bulletin started with a crisis of faith.
To be honest with you, I personally wondered if there was any point to creating a publication that tried to show facts.
Are we living in a place of truth?
I like to think that we’re striving for such a place. And that’s what this year’s data bulletin is all about.
We wanted to create a data bulletin that shed light on the hope that we see in this county. Take a look at the communities featured on the front page. People are ALREADY doing GOOD WORK. We are seeing positive outcomes in communities that have historically faced struggle. We’re so accustomed to hearing negative stories, that we can’t recognize good news even when it’s right in front of our face. So this time, we put it on the cover.
We’re not going to fool ourselves. The challenges are great. We live in a place where absence rubs shoulders with abundance. Where the best opportunities seem only to be a community away but the rift is so deep, that the presence of fortune is torture for those who are denied its benefits.
The data shows us that race matters.
- From the get-go we see that children of Black and Hispanic origin are more likely to be in single-parent families.
- We also see Black and Hispanic families tend to earn less income than their White or Asian counterparts.
- In a place like Westchester County, where the cost of living is one of the highest, if not THE highest in the nation, every dollar counts. And the Federal Poverty Level, which is our national yardstick for determining need, is inadequate when assessing the level of struggle occurring right here. 
- We see the racial disparities time and time again as we move through a child’s lifetime. Black students made up almost half of the children suspended in Westchester County in the 2013-14 school year.
- This sets an unnerving precedent moving forward. Black children are being arrested disproportionately.
- Black residents in the workforce are facing higher unemployment rates along with their Hispanic counterparts.
What we see are kids, based on the color of skin or where they live, both situations they do not have control over, that are being CLOBBERED from cradle to career.
So what are we going to do about that? We need to ask this hard question. And we need to ask it now.
My most ardent wish is to never have a data bulletin like this in the future. I sincerely wish that in time, we will be creating a Data Bulletin filled with hope, and the data will show that race, location and gender no longer play a factor in our children’s success.
I don’t want to end this blog post on a bleak note, because there is already evidence that we are willing to collectively join efforts and pull the brake on this trainwreck narrative that has been haunting Westchester County and the rest of the nation for years. Our data isn’t current, things can be a little more transparent, but our hearts and minds are fully committed to changing the story that is playing out right here today.
And so our work begins. Thank you.
I want to thank the staff at WCA, especially Denise Killeen, my data partner in crime, for bringing this data bulletin to fruition. I also want to thank Tara Framer of Tara Framer Design for her constant flow of ideas as we all pushed each other to make this an even better Data Bulletin (we hope). Without their assistance and encouragement, this data bulletin would not be here today.
Check out United Way’s ALICE report when you get a chance. It really is an eye-opening document on how the Federal Poverty Level misses the mark in measuring financial hardship throughout the nation.