Ideally, every child would be healthy, growing and thriving in a strong family, and supported by a safe and nurturing community. The reality is, however, that the human, social, and material assets vary widely across California’s nearly 500,000 infants born each year. And this variation is not inconsequential. A large, and growing, body of literature affirms the importance of early childhood experiences in influencing adolescent and adult behavior. Assets present at birth lay the foundation for the emergence of protective factors during childhood that we know are tied to good outcomes and resilience throughout the lifecourse.
Information universally registered at birth can be used to document assets available to each California newborn. Although resources and conditions when a child enters the world are not destiny, thoughtful supports and services may be required to ensure that all children in California find themselves on equal footing. Monitoring the distribution of assets among newborns in different communities can help ensure our investments are intentional and equitable.
To that end, the Children’s Data Network, Heising-Simons Foundation, and First 5 Association have partnered to develop the California Strong Start Index that will summarize, in a standardized way, the conditions into which children are born. The Strong Start Index is built from a small number of health, financial, family, and service indicators that are universally measured at birth. Taken together, they offer a more holistic characterization of the conditions into which newborns are born, and the assets that exist across (and within) California communities.