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By Apurva Mehrotra.
There are over 73.5 million children in the United States and 1.8 million of them call New York City home. That’s more children in one city than in the next two largest U.S. cities combined and approximately three times more children than in Buenos Aires. How do you secure their birthright to be healthy, housed, educated and safe? One of the ways to do that is through tools, databases and indicators that show how children are faring across cities and communities. There are several articles in this blog that talk about the need to get more data about the youngest citizens of Latin America. Read on and learn about this New York City tool that may be a useful example for your community.
Keeping Track Online is a tool free to the public and used by service providers, researchers, elected officials, and the general public to obtain data on everything from economic security, to community safety across New York City’s 59 community districts. The tool is available for anyone looking to make the case that New York City needs to do more for its children, especially in communities that have historically dealt with difficult conditions and poor outcomes. Every two years, Keeping Track of New York City’s Children is released as well, a desk reference that complements the online tool, providing an overview on the status of children at the community, borough, and citywide level.
The tool is part of Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York (CCC) work, an organization that educates and mobilizes New Yorkers to make the city a better place for children. Its advocacy combines public policy research and data analysis with citizen action. It casts light on the issues, educate the public, engage allies, and identify and promote practical solutions for children’s issues.
Keeping Track data is also used to inform the annual Community Risk Ranking, an internationally recognized index of child well-being that highlights where the concentration of risks to well-being exists across New York City’s 59 community districts. Data from across multiple domains – economic security, health, housing, education, youth issues, and family and community – provide a better understanding of where risks concentrate.
The risk ranking highlights vast disparities in well-being across the city, while also illustrates how risks are interrelated. Many of the same communities with high poverty rates, for example, are also the highest risk in the education and health domains. At the same time, there are certain communities which are high risk in one domain, but relatively low risk in the others. While the overall risk ranking can help to determine where additional resources, supports, or services are needed, the individual domain rankings can help to identify which issues need to be tackled in which communities.
Community Asset Mapping
We know that data exclusively focused on risks or child and family status presents an incomplete picture of a community. With this in mind, in the past year, CCC began a project that maps the assets or resources present in a community. We examine assets in a similar way we look at risks – across multiple domains that have an interrelated impact on well-being. We have started our asset mapping work in the neighborhood of Brownsville in Brooklyn, a neighborhood that struggles with poor outcomes across virtually every domain. By looking at the resources available in the community, and through focus groups with residents, we hope to get a better understanding of what resources are available, what resources are needed, and what obstacles are getting in the way of residents of accessing the resources that do exist.
The conversations with Brownsville residents have been illuminating, and illustrate the multi-dimensional nature of the challenges many communities in New York City face. In many cases, resources are simply insufficient to meet the need. In other cases, obstacles such as inadequate access to transportation, concerns over safety, or distrust of public institutions can prevent individuals from accessing existing services.
Bringing New Data and Data Visualization Tools Online
By early 2017, we will have brought our risk ranking and asset mapping tools online, to join Keeping Track as an evergreen source of data that helps to present a comprehensive illustration of what life is like for New York City’s children and their families. We hope people will use the new tools in the same way they have been using the existing Keeping Track resources (both the online data base and Keeping Track and Risk Ranking publications): to continue making the case for the budget, program, and legislative needs of New York City’s children – all 1.8 million of them.
How do you think a tool like Keeping Track Online could benefit your community? Are you already using something like it? Tell us how in the comments section below or mentioning @BIDgente in Twitter.
Apurva Mehrotra is the Director of Research and Data Analysis at Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York.