Juvenile Justice

The state of Utah, with the blessing of leadership from each branch of government, has embarked on an analysis of our juvenile justice system with technical support from the Pew Public Safety Performance Project. Community-based organizations and advocacy groups with a stake in systemic reform in the juvenile justice system wish to ensure that their valuable input is considered from the outset.

Specifically, the below-signed organizations present this series of “Guiding Principles” to direct the analysis and problem-solving of the Juvenile Justice Working Group, assembled by state leaders to manage this process.

Our hope is that these Guiding Principles are held in mind by the Juvenile Justice Working Group, to appropriately shape eventual legislative and administrative improvements, as well as to initiate future and complementary improvements that will continue to serve Utah’s youth in the years ahead.

Voices for Utah Children
Journey of Hope Utah
Racially Just Utah
HOPE Center Utah
Utah Coalition of La Raza
NAACP of Ogden
Disability Law Center
ACLU of Utah
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
Utah Pacific Islander Civic Engagement Coalition
Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault
Utah Minority Bar Association
Salt Lake Peer Court
Utah Educators for Social Justice
Utah Prisoner Advocate Network
Comunidades Unidas / Communities United
Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City

True juvenile justice reform will...

• Promote the critical role of early, non-criminal-justice intervention in the lives of young people, for the purpose of avoiding future justice involvement.

Early intervention includes not just obvious diversion programs for youth at risk for criminal justice involvement, but programs that ensure a solid footing of health, education and community support long before any involvement with the criminal justice system becomes likely or even possible. Such programs include: comprehensive health coverage for children, as well as pregnant and nursing mothers; early childhood education for all children regardless of ability to pay; and regular access to pro-social before- and after-school activities in the community.

• Address the over-criminalization of age-appropriate behavior among young people, which has contributed to this urgent need for reform in our juvenile justice system.

A fight in the school parking lot need not become a misdemeanor assault charge that introduces a young person to the criminal justice system. Occasionally skipping school need not land a child in front of a juvenile court judge, who can eventually detain that child for contempt. A third-grader who tags a sign near his elementary school does not need to be labeled a “gang associate” at age eight.

• Address the documented racial disparities in our juvenile justice system, as well as overrepresentation of youth with disabilities and LGBTQ youth.

Stereotypes of kids of color as “hyper-aggressive” and inherently violent or criminal have infused our juvenile justice system in many ways; these often unconscious biases must be openly acknowledged and compassionately addressed. For example, the over- prosecution of “status crimes” and overly-aggressive “anti-gang” strategies disproportionately and negatively impact kids of color. Perhaps unintentionally, such strategies tend to enforce, rather than challenge, implicit racial biases among juvenile justice system public servants and the general public.

• Utilize diverse and numerable early alternatives to official involvement in the criminal justice system, such as peer court and other school-based, peer-oriented restorative justice approaches.

Recognizing that juvenile justice system involvement is one of the strongest predictors of adult justice system involvement, every opportunity to avoid contact with the system, even for children engaged in seemingly-criminal activity, must be fully exploited before official system contact is initiated.

• Provide or refer resources to address the trauma and abuse frequently experienced by young people prior to, or in conjunction with, their involvement with the juvenile justice system.

Physical, psychological and sexual abuse play an integral role in the anti-social behavior of juveniles, including boys but especially for girls and gender-non- conforming children. Legitimate reform efforts will reflect a gender-responsive, identity-accepting and trauma-informed approach.

• Ensure that all juveniles who appear in court prior to and in the process of adjudication are represented by vigorous legal representation, regardless of their ability to pay for such counsel.

Juveniles in crisis are incredibly vulnerable. They require and deserve a legal advocate who is: always working in their best interest; not overly burdened with high workloads and low resources; cognizant of the many collateral consequences of various degrees of justice involvement; and sensitive to the unique needs, abilities, characteristics of children and adolescents.

• Improve detention conditions endured by juveniles who are detained in state custody and “community-based programs” affiliated with the juvenile justice system.

o Juveniles in detention are incredibly vulnerable to sexual assault by staff as well as by other juveniles; every provision must be made to protect the physical safety and bodily integrative of even the most difficult and dangerous child.
o Adequate and appropriate mental health treatment must be provided to youth in detention, as detention itself can and should be considered a mental health stressor.
o Detention facilities must also offer substantial transitional services, and coordinate with community support programs to ensure ongoing care for vulnerable juveniles.

• Ensure the proper identification and classification of justice-involved juveniles with special needs (including mental health issues and learning disabilities).

There is strong evidence that Utah is seriously undercounting the number of children in the juvenile justice system who have significant learning disabilities and other challenges. These issues may have contributed to juveniles’ involvement in the system in the first place, and they continue to present obstacles to recovery, education and rehabilitation while in state custody. Utah must ensure that youths are appropriately diagnosed and treated during their time in contact with the juvenile justice system.

• Focus on schools, not just courtrooms and secure facilities, as areas in desperate need of “criminal justice” reform.

Many of the issues that contribute to overrepresentation of youth of color, youth with disabilities and LGBTQ youth in the juvenile justice system begin in public schools: over-criminalization of age-appropriate behavior; overly harsh punishment for status offenses, including truancy and dress code violations; too-early referral to law enforcement without adequate opportunity for non-court diversion; punishment for alternative cultural expression and language utilization; and so on.

• Consider the unique needs of juveniles who are adjudicated, incarcerated and supervised in the adult system, as well.

When a court legally determines that a child can be tried as an adult for a serious crime, the community is not immediately alleviated of its moral responsibilities to attend to the unique needs of that child. The physical safety, mental health, emotional stability and rehabilitative progress of juveniles in the adult system must be a priority.

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pdfGuiding Principles for Juvenile Justice Reform in Utah

For 30 years now, Voices for Utah Children has called on our state, federal and local leaders to put children’s needs first. But the work is not done. The children of 30 years ago now have children of their own. Too many of these children are growing up in poverty, without access to healthcare or quality educational opportunities.

How can you be involved?

Make a tax-deductible donation to Voices for Utah Children—or join our Network with a monthly donation of $20 or more.  Network membership includes complimentary admission to Network events with food, socializing, and opportunity to meet child advocacy experts. And don't forget to join our listserv to stay informed!

We look forward to the future of Voices for Utah Children and we hope you will be a part of our next 30 years.

Special thanks to American Express for sponsoring our 30th Anniversary Year. Amex

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2016 Candidate Briefing Guide

Health Equity 2 for report

2016 is an important election year in Utah. The public offices on the ballot in November include the following:

  • U.S. Senate
  • U.S. House of Representatives
  • Governor and Lt. Governor
  • Half of the State Senate
  • The entire Utah House of Representatives

Our elected officials play a central role in determining whether all children have the opportunity for health, safety, education, and economic security. As the Utah child population grows and becomes more diverse, it is important for candidates to discuss the needs of Utah children and the policies they would pursue to ensure that all Utah's children can thrive.

Voices for Utah Children is providing candidates for elected office in Utah with the resources in this Candidate Briefing Guide to help them understand the challenges facing Utah's children, direct public awareness and dialogue toward the needs of children over the course of their campaigns, and begin their terms of office prepared to enact effective policies to protect their youngest constituents.

Utah voters can also use these resources to educate ourselves about children’s issues as we seek to elect candidates that will prioritize the needs of children and invest in our state’s future.

More Information:

Racial and Ethnic Equity for Children in Utah: What we learned from the 2016 Legislative Session

Kids Count


Juvenile Justice

Early Childhood

Economic Security/Tax & Budget

Kids Count

2016KC profiles UT 1Supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, our KIDS COUNT® work aims to provide Utah’s legislators, public officials and child advocates with reliable data, policy recommendations and other tools needed to advance the kinds of sound policies that benefit children and families across the state.

This year, Utah barely held on to its position among the top ten in the annual Annie E. Casey Foundation KIDS COUNT® Data Book report. Ranking 9th in 2015, Utah now ranks 10th among the fifty states (despite a dramatic change in the health domain, where Utah dropped from 7th in 2015 to 27th in 2016). Utah’s 2nd place ranking for the Family & Community domain and 8th place ranking for Economic Well-Being remained unchanged. In the Education domain, Utah ranked 21st — up from 29th in 2015.

Terry Haven Terry Haven 300
Deputy Director
Voices for Utah Children


More Information:

2016 Kids Count Data Book

Measures of Well-Being in Utah, 2015

pdf2016 Utah and United States Kids Count Profiles

The Federal Safety Net Cuts Child Poverty in Utah in Half


Each child brings the promise of a healthier, stronger future for Utah. To make good on that promise, Utah needs to make sure children can grow up healthy, from the prenatal period all the way through their teenage years.

Utah children and families should have access to:

  • Appropriate prenatal care;
  • Affordable, accessible, culturally competent care that encompasses both prevention and treatment; and
  • Supportive services and environments designed to help facilitate the best possible health outcomes.

All families in Utah must be able to achieve optimal health in order for our state to continue to grow and prosper.

Jessie Mandle, MPH Jessie Mandle
Health Policy Analyst
Voices for Utah Children


More Information:

12-Month Continuous Eligibility for Children on Medicaid

Utah's Uninsured Rate for Hispanic Children: Highest in the Country

A Coverage Gap Solution for Utah Families

Majority of Eligible Parents Who Would Benefit from Medicaid Expansion are Working

Juvenile Justice

Utah School to prison pipelineVoices for Utah Children seeks to reduce juvenile incarceration rates and eliminate the inappropriate use of secure confinement and out-of-home placement, ensuring that juvenile correction systems better protect youth and the public.

A key aspect of our juvenile justice work involves a commitment to challenging the School-to-Prison Pipeline, wherein children — particularly children of color and those with disabilities — are funneled out of public schools and into juvenile and criminal justice systems in a discriminatory application of discipline. “Zero-tolerance” policies criminalize minor infractions in the classroom, while the presence of law enforcement officers in schools often leads to student behavior being criminalized rather than handled within the school setting.

We are committed to the belief that children should be educated, not incarcerated. We work to empower advocates and community members alike, arming people with information that allows them take action to end School-to-Prison Pipeline.

Lincoln M. Nehring, JD Lincoln Nehring
President & CEO
Voices for Utah Children




Early Childhood

The early years in a child’s life form the core foundation for later social, emotional and cognitive development. Done well, early childhood education can help level the playing field, especially for low-income children, by closing the access and achievement gaps, thereby enhancing not only school performance, but self-sufficiency over a lifetime.

At Voices for Utah Children, we focus on promoting targeted investments in early childhood education, with the goal of creating a statewide early learning system in Utah that supports all families by making sure they have access to high-quality options for their children’s early care and learning—whether children spend their days at home, in formal child care, or with family and friends.

Tess Davis, JD Tess Davis
Policy Analyst
Voices for Utah Children


More Information:

Optional Extended-Day Kindergarten

5 Minute Guide to Shared Services

Economic Security/Tax & Budget

InvestmentInChildrenAndEconomicGrowth website

Every day, state governments raise and spend tax revenue in ways that profoundly affect families and communities. The fiscal choices Utah makes — about investing in schools, health care, child care, and other services — can help foster equal opportunity and lay the foundations for our future growth and prosperity.

Voices for Utah Children's fiscal policy program works to ensure that we invest sufficient resources in the vital public systems that ensure that our kids get world-class education and health care as well as special support for children most in need. We also work to ensure that public revenues are generated in ways that are fair; no family should be taxed into poverty as the price of educating their children. 

Matthew Weinstein, MPP Matthew Weinstein
State Priorities Partnership Director
Voices for Utah Children

virtuous cycle website


More Information:

Restoring Revenues

Utah Children's Budget Report 2015

Ending Earmarks

What's Still Eating Utah's General Fund?

Top 10 Reasons to End the Earmarks

Deseret News: Social service advocates call for lawmakers to 'end the earmarks'

Deseret News: In our opinion: Utahns need to understand and appreciate the value of their citizen Legislature

Utah Policy.com: Poll: Utahns Split on Eliminating Transportation Earmarks

A Comparative Look at Utah and Colorado:
Part 1: Economic Opportunity
Part 2: Standard of Living

The Earned Income Tax Credit: A Time-Tested Two-Generation Strategy for Poverty

For 30 years now, Voices for Utah Children has called on our state, federal and local leaders to put children’s needs first. But the work is not done. The children of 30 years ago now have children of their own. Too many of these children are growing up in poverty, without access to healthcare or quality educational opportunities.

How can you be involved?

Make a tax-deductible donation to Voices for Utah Children—or join our Network with a monthly donation of $20 or more.  Network membership includes complimentary admission to Network events with food, socializing, and opportunity to meet child advocacy experts. And don't forget to join our listserv to stay informed!

We look forward to the future of Voices for Utah Children and we hope you will be a part of our next 30 years.

Special thanks to American Express for sponsoring our 30th Anniversary Year. Amex

Published in News & Blog

 What We Learned from the 2016 Legislative Session

health equity 1 for report

  • Children of color in Utah face more poverty compared to non-Hispanic White children. As Utah becomes a more diverse state, children are affected by significant racial and ethnic disparities.
  • The 2016 General Session failed to adequately meet the needs of children of color in Utah. There were some important steps forward but also missed opportunities and inaction.
  • We saw gains for children’s preschool education, health coverage, school safety and criminal justice. There were missed opportunities to expand kindergarten, address our public defender crisis, expand health coverage for all low-income families and keep more families out of poverty.
  • Going forward advocates have a responsibility to integrate an equity lens into our work and build coalitions that will strengthen opportunities for all families.
  • Our Legislature, Governor and State Agencies should be more conscious of communities of color and low-income Utahns in their public policy decisions by reviewing the impact of bills and policies on all groups.
  • In order to correct growing disparities and invest in Utah’s diverse future, lawmakers need to access data disaggregated by race and ethnicity and work with affected communities when developing policy.

Children’s Racial and Ethnic Equity in Utah

Was the 2016 Legislative Session Good for All Children?

Voices for Utah children starts with one basic question in our advocacy efforts: Is it good for kids?

For over 30 years we have been a statewide advocate, informing policymakers that they can and should act to keep children safe, healthy and help them succeed.

But as Utah’s demographic make-up changes, so too are the questions we have to ask. Is it good for all children, or just some children? Which children are making gains in our state while others are falling behind?
The number of Utah children who are non-White is growing. Since 2000, the percentage of children of color in Utah has grown from 17 to 25%. The Hispanic population is growing even faster. Hispanic children have grown from 11 to 17% of the total child population.

Unfortunately, there is a growing social and economic divide along racial and ethnic lines in Utah. Although Utah is a welcoming state, with a prominent international population, there are disparities among our diverse populations. Families of color face higher poverty rates compared to their White, non-Hispanic counterparts. The median household income for White, non-Hispanic families is significantly higher than all other racial and ethnic groups. White children are two to three times less likely to live in extreme poverty. Endnote 1

As a result, children of color have worse health outcomes, lower educational attainment, and are more likely to face school discipline and be involved in the juvenile justice system. What can we do to reverse this trend and create a Utah where all children can thrive?

Health Equity 2 for report

Public policies can help. Public policies play an important role in expanding opportunities for all children, strengthening our schools and public safety net. Endnote 2 But public policies can also create barriers for families. Laws can make it harder for some groups or communities to access care; funding cuts can reduce services. Or simply by maintaining the status quo, policies can perpetuate unnecessary barriers or hidden obstacles for families.

In the recent 2016 Legislative General Session, lawmakers introduced bills that expanded opportunities for children and families and others that created more barriers. At Voices for Utah Children, we look at these laws and ask not only, are they good for children? But also, are they good for everyone, or only some? And under what conditions? Endnote 3

In this report, we will reflect on the 2016 General Session and its potential impact on children from all racial and ethnic backgrounds. We examine legislation in four major issue areas: early childhood education, health, economic equity, and juvenile justice reform. Endnote 4 Using data which is disaggregated by race and ethnicity, this report will consider legislation that expands opportunity for children and youth, as well as missed opportunities for change. 

opportunities and obstacles

Early Childhood Education

Expanding Opportunities for High-Quality Preschool Programs


Early education opportunities can reduce racial and ethnic disparities. High-quality preschool helps children gain valuable cognitive, social, emotional and academic skills. Endnote 5 But with an attendance rate of 40%, Utah has one of the lowest rates of preschool attendance and the rate is even lower among children of color. Only 29% of Hispanic children ages 3 - 4 are attending preschool, compared to 43% of White, non-Hispanic children. One factor driving this discrepancy is that there are not enough affordable, quality preschools, especially in high-needs communities.

The Utah Legislature took steps to address this problem through SB 101, which makes more affordable, high-quality preschool slots available. SB 101 creates a grant program to expand high-quality preschool programs for at-risk children. It also provides scholarships for children who have been identified as living in intergenerational poverty. SB 101 was funded through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which directs funds to low-income children. However, the racial and ethnic gap in school readiness may not be fully accounted for by income, as research shows. In the future, Utah needs more programs, and supporting data, which can examine gaps in school readiness between children of different backgrounds, and ways to address those gaps in high-quality preschool programs. Endnote 6

Missed Opportunity: Expanding Optional Extended-Day Kindergarten and Readiness Assessments

who s turn is it 92 1436133While SB 101 made significant gains for early education, the Legislature missed a critical opportunity to advance continuity in quality programming beyond preschool. HB 42 would have increased funding for quality optional extended-day kindergarten programs and created a statewide kindergarten entry and exit assessment tool.

Full day kindergarten can help reduce racial and ethnic disparities in academic performance. In Utah, less than 15% of 5-year-olds participate in full day kindergarten programs. Endnote 7 Utah has one of the lowest rates of full day kindergarten participation in the nation. Overall there are not enough high-quality, full day, early education programs available in Utah, especially for at-risk children. This contributes to the achievement gap in later years. For example, 81% of Hispanic children are not reading at a proficient grade level by the 4th grade, compared to 55% of White, non-Hispanic children.

Moreover, Utah also lacks comprehensive data to understand children’s kindergarten readiness. By calling for a statewide entry and exit assessment tool, HB 42 would have allowed schools to better determine children’s kindergarten readiness. A statewide assessment can help educators develop appropriate interventions. Without sound, standardized statewide tools, we cannot adequately assist children most at risk of falling behind. Endnote 8

Juvenile Justice Reform

Expanding Opportunities: School Discipline and Juvenile Sentences

Nationwide, we see troubling racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system, and Utah is no exception. For example, Black children make up a disproportionate share of the juvenile justice system. Despite being only 1% of the total child population in Utah, Black youth make up 23% of the population in juvenile detention or correctional facilities.


One significant factor leading to youth involvement in the juvenile justice system is school disciplinary action. There is a direct correlation between youth discipline in school and the likelihood that a child will become involved in the criminal justice system. Yet this too disproportionately impacts children along racial and ethnic lines. Children of color consistently face greater school disciplinary action compared to their White, non-Hispanic peers. Endnote 9 For example, American Indian and Black students are more likely to receive disciplinary action in Utah schools than other racial groups.

Given these findings, HB 460 is an encouraging step forward. HB 460 will provide training for school resource officers and school administrators. The law requires that the State Board of Education create a curriculum to help train officers in schools. HB 460 states that the training can include cultural awareness, resources for students exposed to trauma and restorative justice practices. Its aim is to prevent school disciplinary issues from escalating into larger, criminal justice issues. Appropriate training for school resource officers and administrators could reverse existing practices negatively affecting children of color.

Another promising step this legislative session is HB 405, which prohibits children from receiving life sentences without parole. HB 405 represents an important step in ensuring that the criminal justice system recognizes the unique needs of youth and children.

Missed Opportunities to Avoid Harsher Sentencing for Children of Color

There were also some significant missed opportunities for juvenile justice reform. In particular, SB 155 failed to address the crisis of public defenders in Utah. The law proposes to further study the problem and offers small county-level grants for adult indigent defense. While important, however, this will not help youth. All adults and children have the right to counsel if charged with a crime that might lead to jail, but Utah has failed to fulfill this Constitutional requirement. If a child does not have adequate access to a defense attorney, he or she could receive a harsher sentence. Low-income children of color are more likely to find themselves in the criminal justice system, and therefore more likely to experience harsher sentencing. The ‘school to prison pipeline’ in Utah is fueling some of our most alarming racial and ethnic inequities. We need systems committed to addressing these disparities and helping all children succeed.

Economic Equity

Missed Opportunities to Restore Funds for Public Programs


Families of color face higher poverty rates. Although Hispanic children make up only 17% of the total child population, they represent at least 39% of children living in poverty. Among Hispanic children, 31% live below the poverty threshold compared to 8% of non-Hispanic Whites. From the data available by racial and ethnic categories, we know that poverty in Utah is not experienced equally among all racial and ethnic groups.

What can our public policies do to help all Utahns? As a starting point, we need to ensure that there are enough public dollars available in our General Fund for the programs and services proven to help people achieve independence, meet their families’ needs, and move out of poverty. According to the Utah Foundation, public revenues in Utah are at a multi-decade low due to tax cuts enacted over the past decade. The 2016 Legislature failed to pass legislation that would have restored revenues. Instead, the 2016 Legislature focused its attention on several tax cutting measures, passing HB 61 to reduce corporate income taxes by about $3 million annually and coming close to passing HB 180 to expand a business sales tax exemption by $83 million annually.

Even as legislators give serious consideration to tax cuts that reduce funds available for education, health care, and initiatives that help families work their way out of poverty, the practice of earmarking – permanently diverting General Fund revenues to the Transportation Fund to avoid allowing transportation revenue sources like the gas tax to keep up with inflation – continues nearly unabated. Even though the Legislature’s own Tax Review Commission recommended eliminating almost all existing earmarks, the only proposal that passed this year was a compromise bill that restores about 4% of earmarks to the General Fund, while at the same time more deeply entrenching the earmarking phenomenon by redirecting transportation earmarks for water infrastructure instead.

Missed Opportunities to Help Utah Families Work Their Way Out of Poverty

Despite continued advocacy, there was no legislation in the 2016 session for a state-level Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC is a policy proven to help millions of U.S. working families stay out of poverty. National data show that the EITC can help mitigate racial and ethnic disparities; almost half of all EITC-eligible households were headed by racial or ethnic minorities. Endnote 10 Families of color are more likely to be eligible for, and greatly benefit from, the EITC. A state-level tax credit for working families in Utah would keep even more families out of poverty.

bornluckyPaid leave was yet another missed opportunity to help families stay out of poverty. Many families do not have access to unpaid leave, and many who do have access are unable to afford it. The 2016 Legislature considered HB 188, which would have provided paid family leave for eligible executive branch agency employees. Families in the executive branch, which includes state divisions, departments and higher education systems, would be able to take leave, without losing pay. The topic will be further studied by the Legislature during the 2016 Interim.

White, non-Hispanic parents in Utah are more likely to be eligible and financially able to take unpaid leave than other families. Discrepancies in family leave policies take the greatest toll on foreign-born parents of color: 20% of Hispanic foreign-born parents are both eligible and can afford unpaid leave, compared to 31% of White foreign-born parents. Among U.S.-born parents, 33% of Hispanic parents and 37% of White parents can afford to take unpaid leave. Endnote 11 Parents who are ineligible or cannot afford leave are at risk of losing pay--or their job-- when they stay home to care for their child.


Expanded Opportunities for Children’s Coverage

Utah ICHIA Infographic revised Dec 16 2

Utah has the highest rate of uninsured Hispanic children in the nation. Utah’s uninsured rate for Hispanic children is nearly two and a half times the national rate; it is higher than the rate in every other state and the District of Columbia. Children’s health coverage is the critical foundation for all children to get the care they need to achieve optimal health.

The 2016 Legislature removed the 5-year waiting period for legal immigrant children to receive CHIP or Medicaid. Appropriations bill HB 2 included intent language directing the Department of Health to enroll children as soon as they qualify. Previously, legal immigrant children were subject to a waiting period before they could receive CHIP or Medicaid. Eligible children include legal permanent residents and some additional immigration categories, although undocumented children are not included. The policy change will mean hundreds of children can get coverage. Five years is too long for children to wait.

In addition, the 2016 Legislature allocated $25,000 in one-time outreach funding to help enroll more children in CHIP or Medicaid. The Department of Health’s outreach budget was eliminated in 2010. The funding, allocated to the Department of Health, will be matched by federal dollars to total $50,000 and can be used to reach more Hispanic children.

The Legislature also directed the Department of Health to examine barriers to children’s coverage, including ‘churn’ or a frequent pattern of disenrollment and then re-enrollment from Medicaid. Children may lose Medicaid coverage because of fluctuations in their family’s income. Hispanic children are more likely to experience churn because of a change in their family’s temporary income status. At least 31% of Hispanic children have parents who lack year-round employment, compared to 18% of White children. The Department of Health’s study on churn could help reduce disruptions in children’s coverage and care.

Missed Opportunities: Expanding Coverage for All Parents

The 2016 Utah Legislature took first steps to cover more Utahns caught in the insurance coverage gap. HB 437 changed Medicaid eligibility to cover an estimated 4,000 additional parents, effectively raising the eligibility ceiling for parents with children up to 60% of the Federal Poverty Level. Unfortunately, the Legislature rejected more comprehensive bills that would fully close the coverage gap. As a result, thousands of working parents are still left without health insurance. Over one-quarter of the parents who would benefit from a full Medicaid expansion plan are Hispanic. When parents have insurance they are better able to care for their children. In addition, when parents have coverage, they bring their children along; enrollment numbers for children go up when parents have health coverage. Coverage for parents helps the whole family.

Recommendations Going Forward

Different communities may need different resources
to achieve similar outcomes.
Equity vs. Equality V2

The 2016 Legislative Session expanded opportunities for some children, but there were also many missed opportunities to improve the lives of children from all racial and ethnic backgrounds. These initial steps, while important, still leave much work ahead. Endnote 12

Across every issue area reviewed, we found significant social, economic, and health disparities affecting children of color. Utah laws and policies do not adequately address the growing diversity of our state. The face of Utah’s most vulnerable is changing. We need laws that embrace our diverse future.

This report is both a reflection of our own advocacy practices, as well as a call to action for lawmakers. 

As advocates, we have a responsibility to integrate a lens of racial and ethnic equity into our own work and build coalitions that will strengthen opportunities for all families.

Together with community partners, we hope to contribute to a growing dialogue about racial and ethnic equity in the coming year and to advance policies that can help reduce disparities.

Our lawmakers also have a responsibility to create a more equitable Utah. To secure a future that is safe and healthy for all children, we call on our Legislature, Governor and State Agencies to:

  • Work with coalitions and affected communities. 
    Ensure that those most affected are actively involved in developing policies. To create sustainable solutions, families from all communities must be consulted, engaged and able to meaningfully participate in the policy process.
  • Collect, disaggregate and disseminate data by race and ethnicity.
    Our policymakers need access to the best data and analyses. Too often population measures of children’s well-being are not disaggregated by race or ethnicity. Several state-level initiatives have already begun to make progress in this area. We need to expand these efforts so we can track progress and find solutions. Without disaggregated data, we have an incomplete picture of the needs and outcomes affecting all Utah children.
  • Review the racial and ethnic impact of public policies.
    Our lawmakers and policymakers should review the impact of proposed policies on different racial and ethnic groups. Racial and ethnic impact assessment tools can highlight which groups benefit, and under what conditions. These targeted measures can correct disparities and help our legislators make informed decisions for all communities in Utah.

Printer-friendly version:

pdfRacial and Ethnic Equity for Children in Utah: What We Learned from the 2016 Legislative Session

1. Unless otherwise noted, data and indicators are from the national Kids Count Data Center: http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data#UT/2/0/char/0

2. Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. (2015) “Missing the Mark: Race Equity and Missed Opportunity in the 2015 Session. Research Brief July 2015. Available at: http://www.aradvocates.org/publications/missing-the-mark-race-equity-and-missed-opportunities-in-the-2015-session/

3. DiversityDataKids.org. “What is Research Evidence and Why Does It Matter for Equity?” The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. Available at: http://www.diversitydatakids.org/files/Policy/Head%20Start/Research%20Evidence/What%20is%20Research%20Evidence.pdf

4. Voices for Utah Children focused on these major issue areas during the 2016 Legislative Session. This report does not represent a comprehensive review of all legislation.

5. Heckman, J. J. (2011) "The American Family in Black & White: A Post-Racial Strategy for Improving Skills to Promote Equality." Daedalus, 140(2), 70-89.

6. Magnuson, K. A., & Duncan, G. J. (2005) "Can Family Socioeconomic Resources Account for Racial and Ethnic Test Score Gaps?" The future of children, 15(1), 35-54.

7. Utah Foundation. (2015) “Lessons From Our Neighbor: Learning From Colorado’s Educational Success.” Research Report 731, July 2015. Available at: http://www.utahfoundation.org/uploads/rr731.pdf

8. Utah Department of Workforce Services. (2015) “Fourth Annual Report on Intergenerational Poverty, Welfare Dependency and the Use of Public Assistance.” Utah Intergenerational Welfare Reform Commission Annual Report. Available at: https://jobs.utah.gov/edo/intergenerational/igp15.pdf

9. University of Utah S. J. Quinney College of Law. (2014) “From Fingerpaints to Fingerprints: The School-to-Prison Pipeline in Utah.” Public Policy Clinic Report. Available at: https://www.law.utah.edu/news/from-fingerpaint-to-fingerprints-the-school-to-prison-pipeline-in-utah/

10. Holt, Steve. (2006) “The Earned Income Tax Credit at 30: What We Know.” Research Brief February 2006. Washington DC: The Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program. Available at: http://www.brookings.edu/research/reports/2006/02/childrenfamilies-holt

11. DiversityDataKids.org. (2014) “Working Parents Who Are Eligible For and Can Afford FMLA Unpaid Leave.” Utah Map. Available at: http://www.diversitydatakids.org/data/map/510/working-parents-who-are-eligible-for-and-can-afford-fmla-unpaid-leave-share/#loct=2&cat=28,24&tf=17

12. The following were references and models for this report: Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. “Missing the Mark: Race Equity and Missed Opportunity in the 2015 Session.” Available at: http://www.aradvocates.org/publications/missing-the-mark-race-equity-and-missed-opportunities-in-the-2015-session/; “Facing Race: The 2015 Oregon Racial Equity Legislative Report.” Available at: https://facingraceoregondotorg.files.wordpress.com/2016/01/2015facingraceweb.pdf; “Strong Families New Mexico 2015 Legislative Report Card.” Available at: http://strongfamiliesmovement.org/nm-reportcard

For 30 years now, Voices for Utah Children has called on our state, federal and local leaders to put children’s needs first. But the work is not done. The children of 30 years ago now have children of their own. Too many of these children are growing up in poverty, without access to healthcare or quality educational opportunities.

How can you be involved?

Make a tax-deductible donation to Voices for Utah Children—or join our Network with a monthly donation of $20 or more.  Network membership includes complimentary admission to Network events with food, socializing, and opportunity to meet child advocacy experts. And don't forget to join our listserv to stay informed!

We look forward to the future of Voices for Utah Children and we hope you will be a part of our next 30 years.

Special thanks to American Express for sponsoring our 30th Anniversary Year. Amex

Published in News & Blog

The 2016 Utah Legislative Session is underway January 25-March 10.  Learn more about issues affecting children that will be addressed during this session:

Tax and Budget Issues

Creating a State Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

End the Earmarks

Restoring Revenues

Health Issues

A Coverage Gap Solution

Eliminate the 5-year Wait

Restore Funds for CHIP and Medicaid Outreach

12-month Continuous Eligibility

Education Issues

Optional Extended Day Kindergarten

High Quality Preschool


Bill Voices for Utah Children Position
HB 18 Medicaid Preferred Drug Amendments Following
HB 36 Insurance Revisions Following
HB 41 Fees for Supplemental Hours Support
HB 42 Optional Enhanced Kindergarten Amendments Support
HB 157 Age Limit for Tobacco and Related Products Support
HB 188 Paid Family Leave Support
HB 221 Immunization of Students Amendments Support
HB 246 Reproductive Health Amendments Support 
HB 296 Transportation Funding Revisions Support
HB 302 Utah Medicaid Amendments Support
HB 309 Sales and Use Tax Earmarks Amendments Support
HB 333 Electronic Cigarette Products, Nicotine Inhalers, and Related Revenue Amendments Support
HB 335 Public Education Curriculum Amendments Oppose
HB 389 Sanctuary City Liability Amendments Oppose
HB 405 Juvenile Sentencing Amendments Support
HB 437 Healthcare Revisions Support
HB 460 School Resource Officers and School Administrators Training and Agreement Support
HCR 4 Concurrent Resolution Declaring Drug Overdose Deaths to Be a Public Health Emergency Support
HJR 8 Joint Resolution Calling for Convention to Amend the Constitution of the United States Oppose
HJR 19 Joint Resolution for Medicaid Expansion Opinion Question Support
SB 45 Compulsory Education Revisions Oppose
SB 59 Antidiscrimination Act Revisions Support
SB 67 Partnerships for Student Success Support
SB 77 Medicaid Expansion Proposal Support
SB 79 Child Welfare Revisions Oppose
SB 80 Infrastructure Funding Amendments Oppose
SB 101 High Quality School Readiness Program Expansion Support
SB 167 Dental Managed Care Amendments Following


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For 30 years now, Voices for Utah Children has called on our state, federal and local leaders to put children’s needs first. But the work is not done. The children of 30 years ago now have children of their own. Too many of these children are growing up in poverty, without access to healthcare or quality educational opportunities.

How can you be involved?

Make a tax-deductible donation to Voices for Utah Children—or join our Network with a monthly donation of $20 or more.  Network membership includes complimentary admission to Network events with food, socializing, and opportunity to meet child advocacy experts. And don't forget to join our listserv to stay informed!

We look forward to the future of Voices for Utah Children and we hope you will be a part of our next 30 years.

Special thanks to American Express for sponsoring our 30th Anniversary Year. Amex

Published in News & Blog
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