Innovation at Work for America’s Children: A Timeline—Work That Matters

by Laurie Lipper and Wendy Lazarus

The Children’s Partnership was founded in 1993 as one century gave way to the next and the nation faced a period of extraordinary and rapid change. We recognized that the nation’s children needed a voice at the very forefront of emerging social, economic, and technological trends to ensure that children, especially those who live in underserved communities, would not be left behind. Innovation at Work for America’s Children: A Timeline provides a snapshot of 22 years making a difference for children—and previews the work ahead.

Our mission then, as now, is to scout out major emerging trends that can improve the health of children and open new doors of opportunity for them. During this period, the digital technology revolution and the health reform movement offered unforeseen ways to benefit the nation’s—and California’s—children, and also presented risks that needed to be brought to light. The Children’s Partnership has focused on these two program areas: “Improving the Health of America’s Children” and “Connecting Kids to Digital Opportunities.”

To develop practical but innovative ways to improve kids’ lives, we applied strong research and policy development skills along with a commitment to involving local communities and a broad array of partners in finding scalable solutions. This work and the results are described in the timeline.

When we began our work in 1994, 1.8 million California children were without health coverage, due in part to restrictive eligibility that excluded some children and a host of other issues that prevented others from enrolling into coverage. Today, 100 percent of California’s children are eligible for comprehensive health coverage thanks to California’s historic policy decision to provide state-funded Medi-Cal to income-eligible undocumented children. The Children’s Partnership helped lead that fight, pushing to expand coverage to all, improve the quality of care children receive in public and private health coverage programs, and find innovative solutions to make enrollment processes smooth and family friendly.

And, The Children’s Partnership was among the first to recognize that digital technology would transform the way that kids learn, play, communicate, and prepare for their future. With a seminal report in 1994, on America’s children and the information superhighway, to the first comprehensive guide for parents of children online, to a model community computer initiative and guide for creating online content for low-income and underserved communities, The Children’s Partnership helped shape solutions and guide families and communities as the world went digital.

The world in which today’s children are growing up continues to change at a rapid pace, and there is even more need for an advocate for children at the forefront of health and digital technology. In fact, history demonstrates that without strong advocacy, the benefits from new technologies and advances in health and medicine may not reach all of the nation’s children—especially those who may not have the resources to secure them on their own.

For more than 22 years, The Children’s Partnership has focused on being at the table at the right time, armed with the right information, and with the right players to place the needs of underserved communities on the map of change and to help tangibly improve the lives of and opportunities for children as evidenced in the timeline. Under the leadership of the new president, Mayra Alvarez, The Children’s Partnership will continue to break new ground and put innovation to work for America’s children—a part of the long American tradition that we believe is vital to build upon because America’s children are depending on us to do just that.

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