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

Do Your Taxes for Free. Get Your Money.

If budgets are tight in your family—and for most Californians, they are—then you probably dread tax season. But if you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck, taking the time to claim a good return can keep food on the table.

It takes an expert’s eye to get it right, but not everyone can hire an accountant. Luckily, our partners are forward-thinking organizations around California that provide low- or no-cost tax-prep services to community members.

So, embrace this tax season. Take a look to see if you’re eligible for services in your area, which could potentially save your family thousands of dollars.

CalEITC4Me offers information on the Earned Income Tax Credit and a tool that finds free tax-prep services.

United Way of California
The United Way offers free tax software for households earning less than $66,000 annually. They’ll also help you find an IRS-certified tax expert at a volunteer income tax assistance site near you. Shout out to our partners United Way of Greater Los Angeles, United Way Bay Area, and United Way Capital Region for their tireless tax-prep work!

Rubicon Programs
Financial coaches through Rubicon Programs in the Bay Area coordinate volunteer income tax assistance.

Catholic Charities
Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County maintains a list of local parishes that host free tax-preparation services.

So you got your refund. Great! Check out these tips on how to make the most of your EITC from our friends at YPI.

If affordable tax-preparation services help you save money and make ends meet each year, let us know. Tweet us, Facebook us, or email us to show how your tax savings made a difference. Use the hashtag #ItsYourMoneyGetIt. When we can point to the successes of anti-poverty tools, politicians listen. Even better, it pushes them to sustain or even expand the benefits—and make real progress toward ending child poverty.

What if your life was decided in six minutes?



A mere six minutes into her life, an infant born in poverty in California is already five times more likely to drop out of school and has a 70 percent chance of staying trapped in poverty as an adult.

For a state that prides itself on being a place of big dreams and limitless opportunity, California can and must do better.

Here’s the good news: You can make a difference.

Please share this video to raise your voice and inspire more compassionate Californians like you to join our movement. Together, we can rally support and demand change from our elected leaders, including our next governor.


Sandra Sanchez
End Child Poverty in California

The Fight is On

You may find it hard to believe, but California — where 1 in 5 children lives in poverty — has never launched a comprehensive, research-backed plan to tackle this crisis head-on. We’ve done it for the environment. We’re doing it for transportation.

Now, thanks to the Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Task Force and your support, California can end deep child poverty and reduce child poverty once and for all. It is both immoral and stupid not to solve this crisis when we have the absolute ability to do so.

On Wednesday, the Task Force gathered in the state capital to continue developing solutions to accomplish that goal. As co-chair of the Task Force, I was proud to be in the room, and cannot wait to share more updates as the plan comes together.

For now, one thing is clear: True change will not come from Sacramento, but from your voice and those of an army of Californians like you. If we don’t join together to demand an end to child poverty in our state, it won’t be done.

As Michael McAfee of PolicyLink told the Task Force Wednesday: “If you think you’re going to end child poverty without a fight, then you might as well go home.”

Well, the fight is on — and it is going to take all of us. From individuals who are struggling to make ends meet every day to organizations working on the front lines to end child poverty to concerned Californians like you — everyone with a stake must step up. We can do this. Now is the time.

Your voice will raise awareness of our mission, push our Task Force forward, and encourage others to join the movement.


Conway Collis
Co-Chair, Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Task Force
GRACE President & CEO




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