Keeping the California Dream Alive

California is the only state in the union with its very own dream. For generations, people have flocked to this state with hopes of a better future—to fulfill their “California Dream.”

Today, that dream is beginning to dim. A new report showed that nearly two-thirds (64%) of Californians say they would tell young people in their communities to actually leave the state to find opportunity elsewhere.

As a Californian, I find that distressing. This campaign is about keeping the future of our state alive, and giving children opportunity to be the best they can be right here in California. Sign up to make that a reality: http://www.endchildpovertyca.org/signup/

This past week, our state’s first-ever Child Poverty Task Force gathered in Los Angeles to continue charting a path forward for a comprehensive, statewide plan to keep this dream alive for the 1.9 million children currently living in poverty.

Made up of community leaders and other experts from across the state, we continued looking at how we can coordinate services and invest in research-backed programs to better give working families the chance to live, work, and dream of a better future.

As Task Force member Camille Maben of First 5 California said: “There’s not one silver bullet. There’s a lot of them.” Housing, food, childcare, social services—these core issues beat at the heart of the Task Force’s plan currently taking shape.

Beyond looking at these crucial barriers to families, we also examined how we can make the system smarter and simpler. Far too often, one unexpected expense spirals and it’s nearly impossible for families to navigate our complicated web of social services.

Task Force member Iris Zuñiga of Youth Policy Institute said it best: “It’s almost like a part-time job trying to figure out these different systems.” When many parents are working two to three jobs just to make ends meet, that’s unacceptable.

The numbers don’t lie. In the same survey from PRRI, 42 percent of workers in the state reported cutting back on a doctor’s visit or food just to get by. In the world’s fifth-largest economy, this is shameful.

When implemented, the comprehensive proposals from the Child Poverty Task Force will change California forever. Change takes hard work, though, and it takes Californians of all walks of life speaking out until politicians sit up and listen. Take one minute today and join our movement to make California a land of opportunity for all kids, not just the wealthy few. Our future depends on it.


Toward a better future for all kids,

Conway Collis
End Child Poverty in California

A smarter system starts in Los Angeles

Make no mistake: working families in Los Angeles face countless challenges when trying to get ahead. From skyrocketing rents to the jaw-dropping cost of childcare, families on a budget have difficult choices to make every single day.

That’s what makes organizations like our partners Shields for Families so essential. We recently visited their ASK program in Compton to see what’s working on the ground and how those solutions can be part of California’s statewide plan to end child poverty.

“In this community, there’s this pervasive feeling of hopelessness. So that’s what this program offers people: hope,” said Shields President Dr. Kathryn Icenhower.

How? The key is providing integrated services. Parents who walk through the Shields doors may arrive looking for help with housing, and then discover parenting classes, job training, and childcare right down the hall. It’s all under one roof.

Shields also focuses on helping the whole family in order to help children. Carlos is a working dad who was just completing Shields’ 12-week fatherhood course when we visited, which gives dads emotional support, job training, and a hand navigating complicated bureaucracies. “I feel good about myself now. I had no idea I could fight for my children.”

That positivity and support is a tide that raises all ships. As program manager Reginald Van Appelen said: “When we heal, we teach others to heal. And that trickles down to the children.”

How do we replicate this type of approach statewide? The answer is simple. The Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Task Force is creating a comprehensive, community-first approach to end child poverty. That means creating a smarter, better system where services are streamlined and integrated for working families.

“People suffer in silence because they don’t want to be judged,” John Paul, head of Shields’ job training program said.

It’s time to break the silence. We’re making a plan to end child poverty once and for all. We just 100,000 Californians to demand that our elected leaders put the plan into action. Urge your friends and family to speak out and tell our next governor to put kids first. The future of our state depends on it.



Conway Collis
End Child Poverty in California

Fresno shows us how it’s done.


People ask us all the time: “How can we possibly end child poverty?” Here’s the good news: In California, we have the answers. We just need the courage and will to finally bring proven methods to bear state-wide.

In many ways, Fresno is a model for this state-wide approach to fighting child poverty. Thanks to our friends at the Fresno Equal Opportunities Commission, I recently visited the Central Valley and saw first-hand how advocates on the ground are working together to help kids and working families get ahead.

Here are some solutions that work:

#1. Early Head Start

Early Head Start students at the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission center on Divisadero Street, downtown. “We’re getting calls constantly. We’re only just scratching the surface,” said program director Kathleen Shivaprasad.

Eighty-five percent of the brain develops by age three. That’s what makes Early Head Start programs so critical. The numbers prove that these two perfect kids pictured above will develop language skills quicker and learn better concentration in class. Programs like Early Head Start work. The challenge is funding. The state budget opened 16,000 new childcare slots. That’s great. But 1 million kids still need access. The richest state in America must do better.

#2. Housing

“We need more. We need more housing for these youths. Our model is working, we just don’t have enough resources,” Chrystal Streets at the Sanctuary Youth Shelter in Fresno.

Chrystal Streets manages the Sanctuary Youth Shelter in Fresno, the ONLY youth shelter for kids ages 12–18 in the entire Central Valley from Merced down to Bakersfield. The shelter provides not only a safe place to stay, but mental health counseling as well as guidance navigating a frustrating bureaucracy. The model works—over 90% of kids return to their families or find a permanent home to stay within one month.

The problem: out of 20 beds in the shelter, eight were empty when we visited. These beds could have helped take kids off the street. Instead, they were left vacant because of a lack of funding. We’re the fifth wealthiest economy on the planet. This is shocking, and there’s no excuse not to invest in helping kids in need get back on their feet.

#3. Workforce Training

Photos of graduates from Fresno EOC’s Valley Apprenticeship Connections. Many of these graduates of the 12-week bootcamp went from no jobs to earning $31/hour. “Working makes them think differently about their whole future,” said program director Lydia Gutierrez.

Fresno EOC Valley Apprenticeship Connections is a 12-week bootcamp guiding adults, many of them parents, through the skills need to attain better paying jobs. Director Lydia Gutierrez told us that some participants slept in their cars in the parking lot after overnight shifts at the local Farmer John’s slaughterhouse. All so they could arrive for class at 7am. That dedication pays off—literally. Graduates of the program earn as much as $31 an hour with a staggering job retainment rate of 82 percent after one year. That’s almost double the state average for such programs. These kinds of programs are crucial to making parents and their children independent.

While all of these programs from Fresno EOC have been successful, one thing I kept hearing time and again was this: “We need more.” The staff of Fresno EOC are literally changing lives every day — and they could change more if they only had more. More support. More funding. More help. As the Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Task Force continues to make its comprehensive child poverty plan, we will look into expanding programs just like these that empower children and families to take their future into their own hands.

As Jeff Davis of Fresno EOC told us: “We like to think of ourselves as hope merchants. We’re giving the community hope.”

That’s exactly what we aim to do for children across this entire state with this campaign. Thank you for being part of our journey, and bringing hope to the next generation. In order to be successful, we need 100,000 Californians like you to join our movement. Please ask your friends and family to join now. We need you.


Towards a better future for all kids,

Conway Collis
End Child Poverty in California

Voices of the Movement: Ilene Garcia

You know the story. A teen mom drops out of high school. Gives in to depression. Gives up on life.

Thanks to Youth Policy Institute (YPI), that’s not my story.

When I held my son for the first time, I felt pride, joy, but most of all terror. I was raised by a single mom struggling to make ends meet, so I knew: It doesn’t matter how hard you work, how long you study, or how much you love your child. The next day, you may be in the streets.

Like you, I wanted the best future for my child, but I needed a little help. That’s when I found YPI. They showed me the tools I needed to go to college, find a job, and fight for a better life. Now, there’s one thing that keeps me moving no matter how many days I go without sleep: hope.

You can help the next teen mom find hope, too. It’s simple. Share my video and encourage your friends and family to join the movement to end child poverty in California. The End Child Poverty in California campaign is working with organizations like YPI to help young moms and children in poverty across our state change their story.

We can pass hope on one person at a time—and let the world know that together, we’ll end child poverty in California.


Ilene Garcia
Working mom and UCLA student

“Something is going on here.” – Voices from Fresno

Far too often, decisions are made from the top down that affect hardworking people across the state. This campaign has always been about families first, which is why we’re committed to listening before we talk. We want to learn what’s truly working—and what isn’t—so we can create a comprehensive plan that ends deep child poverty once and for all.

Last week it was great to be in Fresno for the second in a series of community meetings to hear from Californians. Thanks to our hosts at the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission, the Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Task Force (on which I serve as co-chair) attracted a standing-room-only crowd committed to sharing their experiences and ideas for ending child poverty. Over 100 community members and 30 organizations came together for an honest conversation and I was honored to be in the room.

Here are some of the people we heard from.

“Hearing about the poverty rate in California makes me want to do something. When you see homelessness on the street, you think: ‘How can we help?’”

It was inspiring to see young people like Jourdan (above, center) and her sister Alyssa come out to make their voices heard. When youth speak out for themselves, great things happen.

“My vision for a better California is one job per person instead of three. When I was growing up, the fast food industry was for kids. Now it’s for grandmas.”

Gloria Hernandez is a mental health advocate and volunteer in the Central Valley who had brought a list of dozens of points she wanted to make throughout the night. This was one of them: Through education, entrepreneur grants, and workforce training, we can elevate working families to something better than living paycheck-to-paycheck. That opens up the early job experiences youth need to become healthy, independent adults.

“Half of the battle is at home. The students come to school mad and the teachers have no idea why. We need to help them heal first.”

Elder Jackson of Fresno Street Saints brought his entire family, including his daughter Jayden, to share their experience. All too often, he’s seen kids deal with the trauma of poverty quietly and on their own. We need to think about what’s holding kids back from excelling in school—it may be outside the classroom. We also need to provide the kind of multigenerational support to parents and children that truly lifts families up and helps them thrive like the Jacksons.

“As a foster parent, I’ve seen kids come into my home where the kind of abuse and condition they come from is pretty hard to believe. Something is going on here.”

After climbing telephone poles all day for a local telecom company, Stan Santos spends “every other waking hour” helping people in need as an immigration advocate and foster parent. He’s exactly the type of person who provides the spark for our movement. His point is backed up by numbers, too. Over 60% of child sex trafficking victims come out of the foster care system. We have to step up for our most vulnerable youth and extend the care and benefits that help foster kids stand on their own two feet after they leave the system.

What’s next? We have another community meeting coming up in Oakland, and we’ll continue to ask Californians for their thoughts on how we build a plan from the ground up.

For now, Assemblyman Dr. Joaquin Arambula of the Central Valley said it best: “It’s not up to us to come up with all the answers. It’s up to us to be the vehicles of change.” The AB 1520 Task Force is listening to the voices of Californians like these to help create a plan to end deep child poverty in California.

To get the plan working, we need 100,000 concerned Californians fired up about fighting this fight. Be a vehicle of change. Tell your friends and family to join and grow the movement. We can do this together.


Conway Collis
End Child Poverty in California

It’s a start

Dear Fellow Californian,

Last Friday, we took a step forward in our movement to end deep child poverty once and for all in our state. Thanks to the work of the California State Legislature and the Brown Administration — as well as the voices of concerned Californians like you — our new state budget strengthens the safety net for children and families in communities across California.

Here’s how the new budget helps children in need:

– A $360 million increase in CalWORKs funding to help keep food on the table for working families

– An extension of the Earned Income Tax Credit for Californians working at the new state minimum wage

– First-time state funding of $158.5 million for home visiting programs that provide vital pre- and post-natal services care to low-income children

– Expanded childcare opportunities so parents can get to work supporting their families

–$200 million in reserve to protect against future cuts during a recession

While this budget brings us closer to our vision of a California that gives opportunities to all children, it’s only the bare minimum. For instance, 1.4 million disadvantaged children still lack access to subsidized childcare. California’s new budget only provides for 16,000 additional slots. How can parents work without it?

Now is the time to create a comprehensive plan to end deep child poverty in our state. That begins by showing the many legislators who fought for these increases to the safety net that we stand with them and support their efforts. Real and sustained commitment to ending deep child poverty requires an army of Californians who demand it.

Please ask your friends and family to join this army and speak up for children. More than 35,000 Californians have joined the movement—with hundreds more joining every week. As the new budget shows, we’re starting to make our voices heard. Imagine what we can do to truly end deep child poverty once we reach our goal of 100,000 Californians by year’s end. Thank you.


Conway Collis
End Child Poverty in California

Courage, compassion, and will

I’m frustrated and you should be, too. Here’s why: We know how to end child poverty in the fifth largest economy in the world. Yet 1 in 5 California children still wakes up hungry or on the edge of homelessness. Every. Single. Day.

The good news: There’s a simple way you can make a big difference today. Share this petition in support of Senator Holly Mitchell’s bill to raise CalWORKs in our state.

Please urge your community to expand this life-saving benefit for working families. Today, a family of three receives nine dollars less in CalWORKs than they would have 10 years ago. That makes no sense.

CalWORKs works, full stop. It puts food on the table, keeps lights on overhead, and gives children of hardworking parents the opportunity to become the best Californians they can be.

Change takes courage, compassion, and political will. We want to live in a California where every child can dream of becoming the next doctor, scientist, or governor of our state. Don’t you? Stand up for children. Share our petition today and give all kids a chance.

In solidarity,

Sandra Sanchez
End Child Poverty in California

Voices of the Movement: Laura Lomeli & Andre Shirley

When you were a child and needed help, who did you call? Maybe you leaned on a parent, an aunt, or an uncle for some much-needed advice or simply a comforting voice.

Ask a foster kid this same question, though, and you’ll most likely get a very different answer: nobody.

As former foster youth, we know this painful truth firsthand. We’ve experienced the struggle foster kids face as they try to navigate a complicated world completely on their own. We’ve seen with our own eyes how this lack of support can lead foster youth to homelessness, deep poverty, or worse.

It doesn’t have to be this way. If we want to truly make a difference, though, it’s going to take all of us.

Please, take a minute to share our video with your friends, family, and colleagues. Your voice will inspire more concerned Californians like you to join our movement to end child poverty. Let’s give our state’s most vulnerable kids the support they need to be healthy, happy, and safe.


Laura Lomeli & Andre Shirley
Former foster youth

Voices of the Movement: Sister Julie Kubasak


You know the statistics. Nearly two million California children — that’s one in every five kids — lives in poverty. As a native Californian and a Christian, that pains me, as I’m sure it pains you and everyone who cares about the future of the state we call home.

But my message to you is one of hope, not pain.

We know how to fix this problem. We can change the statistics, we can change lives, and we can end child poverty for California’s children.

True change rests in our hands. For child poverty to end, we must start inspiring compassionate Californians like you to join the movement and finally speak out.

Please share this video and urge your friends, your family, and your co-workers to join with you in saying “enough” to child poverty. Together, we will make sure California’s leaders do the right thing and bring hope to millions of children.

Blessings to you and your family,

Sister Julie Kubasak
Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul

Voices of the Movement: Sharonda Wade


Here in California, we encourage our children to be anything they want to be. Maybe they dream of being a doctor, an astronaut, or even an actor. No matter who they are, though, one thing no child dreams of being is hungry.

That includes children from low-income families and especially children who live, breathe, and struggle with poverty. As a social worker, I see the challenges these kids face every day. Will there be food on the table? Will they have a place to sleep at night?

These are children just like your sons, daughters, nephews, neighbors. They want a chance to thrive in life. But they need the basic resources to get where they dream of going.

That’s why I’ve joined the campaign to End Child Poverty in California — our movement to give every kid the chance at a better future.

We can’t do it alone, though. To truly end child poverty, we need every concerned Californian in this state to join with us and put pressure on our elected leaders to develop and carry out the systems of support for our young people who need it most. So please share my video with your friends, your family, and your co-workers and help grow our movement.


Sharonda Wade
Supervising Children’s Social Worker
Child Protection Agency



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