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July 27, 2017
Since the late 1990s, CCC has championed the use of data to understand child well-being in New York City and make the case for practical solutions to meet the needs of children and families. Our online database, Keeping Track Online is the largest municipal database of its kind in the country, providing a single source of government data – federal, state, and local – on New York City’s 1.8 million children and their families across the 59 community districts of the city.
As one of many vanguards of the child indicators movement, we recognize that learning and collaboration breeds innovation. So, CCC’s Research Director Apurva Mehrotra and Senior Research Associate Bijan Kimiagar attended the 6th biennial conference of the International Society for Child Indicators (ISCI) in Montreal to share CCC’s work and keep up-to-date with the field of child indicators research.
Leaders in child indicators research promote using multiple methods to collect data on a variety of indicators of child well-being. For example, instead of looking narrowly at economic data to understand child poverty rates, researchers argue that a lack of access to educational, health, and housing opportunities are also important indicators of child poverty.
CCC shares this perspective, which is why we have for decades engaged in research on the multitude of ways children experience the negative effects of poverty beyond economic measures. In both our Keeping Track data books and Community Risk Ranking reports, we summarize findings across multiple domains of child well-being: economic security, health, housing, education, and more.
Another standard in the field of child indicators research is taking children’s own views about their well-being and livelihoods into account in research and advocacy. This means valuing children as experts on their own lives. CCC’s community-based research aims to complement quantitative data from government sources with a deeper understanding of children and families’ everyday experience through speaking directly with them. Their views are as important and valid as government data, and provide the narratives needed to bring static social statistics to life.
We have sought young people’s perspectives in our recent work in Brownsville, Brooklyn, and we continue these efforts in our current and prospective work in the Washington Heights area of Manhattan and neighborhoods in northern Staten Island.
The presentations at the ISCI conference highlighted the complexity of child well-being and multiple approaches that elevate the voices of children and their families. In a session on child neglect, multiple researchers addressed the opportunities and challenges of defining and measuring child neglect in Canada. For example, Professor Monica Ruiz-Casares (McGill University) presented data on how definitions of child neglect might differ if you ask a parent versus a police officer versus a pediatrician.
In another panel session on early childhood development, Professor Sharon Goldfeld (The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne) and colleagues presented findings from their cross-sectional mixed-methods study in 25 communities throughout Australia, the Kids in Communities Study. Their papers examined community-level factors across multiple domains to better understand how well community-level risks predicted child well-being outcomes, and used qualitative approaches to shed light on instances when child development outcomes countered the trend expected among the quantitative data.
Collectively, these presentations, along with many others at the conference, offered the viewpoint that definitions of child well-being are complex and everchanging, and measurements of child well-being indicators must be multifaceted and contextual. We at CCC share this viewpoint, and we will continue to marry high quality reporting of child indicators with engaged listening to and advocacy with children and families on the issues most important to them.