5 California Organizations Helping Young People and Families

California is the most populous state in the U.S., and nearly one-fifth of its residents are under the age of 18. Many of these children live in loving homes with people who are able to fully support them both financially and emotionally, but not all are so lucky. That's why organizations like the ones listed here work to fill in those gaps and provide young people and families with the assistance they need to thrive. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

Groups That Support Children & Families In California

Organization Headquarters Location Mission
Kidango Fremont, CA Inspire children for academic success, empower families to achieve their goals, and strengthen community
Project Night Night San Francisco, CA Provide free care packages to homeless children who need childhood essentials to have a concrete and predictable source of security and increased exposure to high-quality literacy materials
Family House San Francisco, CA Serve as a home away from home for families of children with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses by providing physical comfort and emotional support, free from financial concerns
Bill Wilson Center Santa Clara, CA Support and strengthen the community by serving youth and families through counseling, housing, education, and advocacy
Children Now Oakland, CA Find common ground among influential opinion leaders, interest groups, and policymakers, who together can develop and drive socially innovative, "win-win" approaches to helping all children achieve their full potential

Important Literacy Statistics

How to Encourage Kids to Read

A great way to start is to get a bookshelf for your child's room. If they have access to their own collection of books, it'll be easy for them to read at their own pace. And if they're looking at the shelf everyday, reading will always be on their mind. It's also important to give your kids a comfortable place to sit. This can be anything from a rocking chair to a couch to a dedicated reading nook. If they have a space that's just for them, it makes reading time all the more special. As they grow, your young ones will start to read more challenging books with words they don't know. Encourage them to look up unfamiliar terms in the dictionary so they can expand their vocabulary. Finally, if you're having trouble getting your kid interested in books in the first place, try bridging the gap between visual media and literature with graphic novels.

How Many American Children Live In Poverty?

Percentage of children ages 0–17 by family income relative to the poverty threshold, according to the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics

Poverty Level 1980 1990 2000 2010 2011 2012 2014 2015 2016
Below 50% of poverty threshold 6.9% 8.8% 6.7% 9.9% 9.8% 9.7% 9.3% 8.9% 8.2%
50% - 99% of poverty threshold 11.4% 11.8% 9.5% 12.1% 12.0% 12.1% 11.9% 10.8% 9.8%

Every Kid Needs A Champion

In Depth

Youth in California can face a variety of challenges, particularly if they are from low-income households. Poverty often leads to poor academic performance, insufficient nutrition, mental health issues, homelessness, and overwhelming financial difficulties if a major illness strikes. Thankfully, many people are working to benefit children and parents who are in danger of falling through the cracks. In no particular order, here are five organizations in the Golden State, helping young people and families.

At #1 on our list, Kidango provides access to high-quality, early learning for underprivileged children in the San Francisco Bay Area. It offers free or affordable childcare for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, so they are prepared to succeed in kindergarten. Research shows that low-income kids in pre-K are up to two years behind their upper-income peers in language and math development. The group also has intervention services to provide for the special needs of little ones, ages birth to three years, with developmental delays. The licensed nutrition program ensures all students can receive a wide variety of fresh, nutritious food every day.

The organization's instructor curriculum, SEEDS of Learning, is a professional development program that provides educators, parents, and caregivers with strategies to build social, emotional, and literacy skills in young children. It engages teachers and families to give kids the boost they need to enter kindergarten, and read successfully by third grade, one of the most important predictors for high school graduation and life success. Kidango also supports new political policies and legislation to ensure that every child is set up for achievement, regardless of economic status. If you would like to join the advocacy email list, you can sign-up online.

If you would like to join the advocacy email list, you can sign-up online.

Next up, at #2, is Project Night Night, which provides free bags with soothing items to homeless children. Each Night Night Package contains a new security blanket, an age-appropriate book, and a stuffed animal - all inside a canvas tote bag. The stress of not having a residence negatively influences a child's early experiences, and often leads to an increase in mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, poor sleep habits, and behavioral issues. Finding comfort is vitally important for youth to feel secure and loved.

Currently, 1.5 million American children go to sleep without a home each year. But family homelessness often goes unseen, as they typically live in shelters or with relatives, rather than on the street. Project Night Night has given comfort and security to over 250,000 displaced kids since its inception. If you would like to volunteer your time or hold a local fundraiser to donate items for the bags, please contact the organization.

At #3 on our list, Family House provides temporary housing for relatives of children with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses, who are receiving treatment at the University of California San Francisco Benioff Children's Hospital. There is no charge for those who qualify. To be eligible, you must live more than fifty miles from UCSF, and have a referral from the hospital. Many guests are considered low-income. The house is a supportive alliance of people who are dedicated to providing a caring environment for the entire family while their child is undergoing treatment.

The house is a supportive alliance of people who are dedicated to providing a caring environment for the entire family while their child is undergoing treatment.

The organization aims to provide compassion, sanctuary, a loving environment, care affordability, and community support as parents and siblings endure the most trying experience of their lives. Since 250 people can stay at a time, it provides an environment where guests naturally connect and find comfort and healing together. Family House features a variety of areas for use, such as kitchens, laundry rooms, play areas, and more. Upon arrival, each child gets to choose a welcome gift in Fozzy's Toy Room. If you would like to donate a present or provide a meal, please visit the website.

At #4 on our list, Bill Wilson Center provides a variety of services to end homelessness for youth and families in Santa Clara County. It offers counseling, housing, education, foster care, mental healthcare, and programs for basic needs. Additionally, BWC's crisis lines and street outreach aims to keep more kids at home and out of harm's way. Therapy and support are available in areas such as grief, parenting, stress management, and more. Aid for those with no shelter includes LGBTQ host residences, transition for kids aging out of the foster system, and lodging for displaced teens and runaways.

BWC's primary teaching focus is growing self-confidence and developing personal assets. Staff and volunteers identify the strengths in each person and group, and build on those qualities, so participants are empowered to make positive changes in their lives. In addition to counseling, workshops and retreats are also held to educate youth and families. The organization's work not only addresses the various needs of individuals in the community, but keeping kids at home, with a higher chance of success in life, equates to long-term economic savings for local and state governments. Those who would like to assist can volunteer or become a foster parent.

Staff and volunteers identify the strengths in each person and group, and build on those qualities, so participants are empowered to make positive changes in their lives.

And at the #5 spot on our list, Children Now is a non-partisan, research, policy development, and advocacy coalition dedicated to promoting youth health and education in California. It strives to generate the power needed to create change for our youngest citizens. Focusing on critical issues of schools, medical care, and welfare, the group seeks to break down barriers that stand in the way of kids reaching their full potential. The organization also leads The Children's Movement of California, a network of more than 3,000 direct service, parent, civil rights, faith-based, and community groups dedicated to improving the lives of young people.

Children Now's special projects include STEM instruction, educating families of young children on brain development, and encouraging moms and dads to talk with kids about difficult subjects. Each program involves teaching and learning for all of California's parents and caregivers, to promote adolescent health and well-being. Research is also carried out, providing reports and resources to gain insight into how children in the state are faring, and how to advocate for change. If you want to get involved, please consider donating at their website.