Contra Costa County’s Children’s Report Card tracks state, county, and neighborhood trends for 23 Indicators under 5 Results.
In 1997, the Contra Costa County Children and Families Policy Forum, a county-wide group representing residents and representatives from County agencies, elected officials, cities, community- and faith-based organizations, law enforcement, consumers, labor and business, published their first Children’s Report Card. The Report Card described countywide progress on 18 indicators (later expanded to 23) linked to five outcomes adopted by the County Board of Supervisors (Commissioners):
- Children ready for and succeeding in school.
- Children and youth healthy and preparing for productive adulthood.
- Families that are economically self-sufficient.
- Families that are safe, stable and nurturing.
- Communities that are safe and provide a high quality of life for children and families.
A description, data source, trendline and “story behind the data” for each indicator is included, as well as comparisons to state-level data. The second edition published in 1998 and updated in 2000, added sub-county and other disaggregated data. Over 9200 1998 Report cards have been distributed; it is available on the web at www.cccoe.k12.ca.us.
Developing a community report card was challenging. Staffed by the County Administrator’s Office, an Outcomes Task Force representing education, public health, community-based organizations, law enforcement, and county departments and community members received input from more than 150 individuals and groups before reaching agreement on key indicators. Collecting data also proved troublesome: in some cases, critical information had not been collected, or had been collected only for clients of specific programs or schools, or for various time periods. Moreover, some agencies were reluctant to show ‘their’ data. In addition, much of the available data was not current, or had not been disaggregated to show disparate regional trends. Agreement about the ‘story behind the data’ (the reasons for the trends) posed another challenge, as perspectives varied among individuals, agencies, ethnic groups, and communities. It was often a struggle to be both ‘technically correct’ according to experts in the field, and ‘understandable’ to the layperson. As work on the third edition of the Report Card progresses, the Children and Families Policy Forum continues to improve the report card, through increased community input and a data workgroup addressing data forecasting and trends.
The Report Cards are beginning to make a significant difference in how the community and government agencies view children and families services. Widespread feedback from the Report card has already supported development of policy and funding priorities for child and family issues, creation of new partnerships, coordinated planning and better data collection. Community partners continue to use the report to educate the public.