Five Questions with Sue Lin Chong on Communicating KIDS COUNT

Posted August 4, 2015, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

As senior communications manager, Sue Lin Chong works to maximize the Foundation’s mission to build brighter futures for children and families. She also coordinates communications outreach activities related to Casey’s annual KIDS COUNT Data Book and other KIDS COUNT publications.

Before joining the Casey Foundation, Chong supervised the health care and broadcast groups at Devillier Communications in the District of Columbia. She also practiced commercial law in her native state of Hawaii. Chong is a former co-chair and director of Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees and a member of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association. She holds a bachelor’s degree in art history from the University of Pennsylvania and a law degree from the University of Hawaii.

Q1. One of your most important roles is to help promote the Foundation’s signature publication, the KIDS COUNT Data Book. What makes this product so important?

In 1990, the Foundation’s leadership came up with the idea to rank states based on a variety of child well-being measures. They realized the importance of using consistent measures over time to advocate for reforms that can benefit children and families.

With the release of our 26th KIDS COUNT Data Book, Casey continues to build on this work. State leaders and advocates are keenly interested in seeing how conditions for children are improving or stalling, and they use these data to press policymakers for better results.

Q2. What is involved in promoting a product that launched more than a quarter of a century ago?

It takes a lot of moving parts to promote the KIDS COUNT Data Book. We have built strong partnerships with players who understand the significance of sharing these data as widely and effectively as possible. Beyond Casey-led efforts, we rely heavily on our KIDS COUNT network to help promote the Data Book. This network consists of 53 organizations – one in every state as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

Q3. How does the KIDS COUNT network support and contribute to the Data Book’s promotion?

Organizations in our KIDS COUNT network produce their own state data profile. They also work with the media and decision makers to publicize what is happening – and what needs to happen – to improve child and family well-being in their state. We train their staff on telling their story, communicating with legislators, and sharing their lessons and best practices. These organizations play a huge role in highlighting significant local issues and in advocating for policy reforms. We couldn’t do this work without them.

Q4. What are some key trends in this year’s Data Book?

While the nation’s poverty rate has fallen slightly, the sad reality is that many children – and especially children of color – are not doing as well today as they did in the midst of the recession in 2008. Some 16 million children are still living in poverty and nearly a third are living in families where no parent has full-time employment. The nation’s employment rate has increased, but many parents working full time still do not earn enough in wages and benefits to support a family.

In terms of state rankings, this was the first time in nearly a decade that a non-New England state – Minnesota – ranked first in overall child well-being.

Q5. You have worked as a public relations professional in a number of settings. What makes philanthropy a unique industry?

We’re not elected officials, and we are fortunate to have the luxury of time to commit to and work on long-term initiatives. We also have the flexibility to work with trusted partners on a number of different fronts to improve conditions for large numbers of children and families while expanding knowledge about effective policies and practices.

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