Five Questions with Sue Lin Chong on Communicating KIDS COUNT

Posted August 4, 2015
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog fivequestionswith Sue Lin Chong 2015

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 Books 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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