Cartoon Icon is Star of €Children Count Too€ Campaign

James Wright | 3/17/2010, 10:57 a.m.

A life size Dora the Explorer greets children at the Mary€s Center in Northwest (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau)

U.S. Census Reminds Parents, Infants and Young Children Count

One of the world's most popular cartoon characters has teamed-up with the U.S. Census Bureau to remind parents to count infants and young children on the 2010 census forms.

Nickelodeon's Dora the Explorer, the inquisitive pre-school character, debuted as the face of the Census Bureau's "Children Count Too" campaign. The public awareness campaign was launched, Tue., March 9 at Mary's Center, a nonprofit maternal and child care center that primarily serves immigrant populations in Northwest.

"A complete and accurate count of our nation's youngest is critical to their health and education and the future strength of our communities and labor force," Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said.

"In the past we tended to miss our children disproportionately and minorities and immigrants tend to have larger families. The adults forget that the census is about everyone."

Other key partners in the effort include the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the National Association of Child Care Resources and Referral Agencies.

William O'Hare, a demographer and consultant who works with the Casey Foundation said that young children not being counted in the census is a recurring issue.
"The undercount of kids is startling, but it is not a new problem," O'Hare said.

O'Hare pointed out that an estimated 750,000 children were missed in the 2000 count. He said that minority youngsters were missed more than their White counterparts and that Black males under age five in 2000 were missed at a rate of 5.3 percent, compared to 3.3 percent of non-Black males in the same age group.

He said that among Black females under age five, 5.4 percent were missed compared to 3.8 percent for non-Blacks in the same age group.

In his December 2009 study, "Why are Young Children Missed So Often in the Census", O'Hare said that young children tend to be located in areas that are difficult for census employees to access or the information about the importance of the census is not emphasized.

As a result of the undercount, there is reduced federal funding for needy families, O'Hare noted in his study. He cited examples of census data that is used to fund programs that include special education grants to the states, Head Start, the State Children's Health Insurance Program, Foster Care Title IV-E and improving teacher quality state grants.

O'Hare said that an undercount can have an adverse effect in the later years of a child's life.

"If you get an undercount of two-year-olds, you do not have a complete and accurate picture of kids that will start pre-school three years later," he said. "That information is vitally important for planning."

This is where the Dora the Explorer campaign comes in, said Samantha Maltin, senior vice president for integrated marketing and partnerships at Nickelodeon.

"We have arrived at a crossroads in American history where it's more important than ever for all of us to stand up and be counted," Maltin said.

"'Dora the Explorer is an iconic bilingual character for American families of all backgrounds and with her help, Nickelodeon will remind families how easy, important and safe it is to participate in the census."

The cartoon character reaches 150 countries in 30 languages and has been praised by educators for its instructional purposes while entertaining young people and for its appreciation of Latino culture, Maltin said.

The televised public service announcements show Dora putting the census form in the mail and explaining why she returned the questionnaire to the U.S. Census Bureau to two of her friends. The 30-second television spots are in English and Spanish. There will also be bilingual radio spots.

O'Hare summed up the campaign in a short and snappy way.

"Kids count and adults need to remember to count the kids," he said.