When Children and Youth Thrive, Sacramento Thrives

Sac Kids First is the region’s largest grassroots coalition. Our mission is to serve as the unified voice of Sacramento’s youth-serving organizations in the public policy arena. We are engaged in a long-term campaign to increase the well being of children and youth in the Sacramento region, particularly children and youth most affected by poverty, violence and trauma.

We advocate for:

  • youth voice and leadership in civic life,
  • increased investments in children and youth,
  • racial and social equity in the city’s policies and resource allocations
  • greater stability in youth funding,
  • policies that support children and youth that are research-based and data-driven

We know that investing in children and youth brings multiple benefits to our community. When we increase graduation rates and send more young people to college, we grow our workforce and our economy. When we invest early in infants and children, we prevent many problems from developing down the road. The health of our community depends on our children and young people.


The Launch of Measure L: a New Campaign for a Sacramento Children’s Fund

On July 19th, 2022, the Sacramento City Council voted 8 to 1 to place Measure L (the Child and Youth Health and Safety Act) on the November 2022 ballot.  If this measure is approved by voters, the City will be required to invest the equivalent of 40% of its cannabis tax revenue in youth services annually.  Currently the city collects about $23 million annually from its local cannabis tax. If the measure is approved the city would then invest an additional $9 to10 million (the 40%) in child and youth services. Our goals are:

  1. To prevent and reduce child and youth homelessness
  2. To support the mental and emotional health of children and youth
  3. To prevent youth violence
  4. To prevent and reduce youth substance abuse
  5. To support the healthy development of children ages 0 to 5

The measure will also require the city to create an advisory planning and oversight commission that will be responsible for shaping a 5 year strategic plan and an evaluation strategy.  The plan will prioritize children and youth most impacted by poverty, violence and trauma. The City Council will have the final say over all funding allocations and all expenditures will be subject to financial and performance audits.

History of Sac Kids First

Sac Kids First was established by a group of young Hmong leaders active in EBAYC Sacramento in 2017. These young leaders started the process of surveying youth to identify their concerns and needs and to build a coalition with the goal of establishing a stable funding source for children and youth in the city budget. From these early efforts emerged the Sac Kids First Coalition.

From 2018 through 2020, Sac Kids First organized a ballot measure campaign to establish a Children’s Fund. We gathered 39,000 valid signatures to require the City Council to place a children’s fund measure on the ballot. From November 2019 to March 2020, we led the the campaign in support of the children’s fund measure (Measure G). Our efforts were vigorously opposed by the police and fire unions, Councilmember Angelique Ashby, Councilmember Jeff Harris, and Mayor Steinberg. We were supported by the Sacramento Bee, Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, and Councilmembers Schenirer, Guerra and Warren. Prior to the election, Mayor Steinberg promised voters, through mail and through an opinion piece in the Sacramento Bee, that if they voted against our measure, he would move policy forward to create his own version of Children’s Fund.

On March 3rd, 2020, 54% of voters voted against Measure G, while 45% of voters approved the measure. Following the election, Jim Keddy conducted an analysis of the vote outcome and the campaign dynamics which showed that voters in neighborhoods of color strongly supported Measure G and voters in more affluent neighborhoods opposed the measure. His analysis of the vote outcome and racialized campaign dynamics may be found here.

Following the election, we began to meet regularly with Mayor Steinberg and council allies to plan for a children’s fund measure to appear on the November 2022 ballot.

In addition to ongoing work on the ballot measure, Sac Kids First advocated for the City Council to invest a significant amount of the federal stimulus funding (CARES) in youth services, with a focus on serving youth and families impacted by the COVID-19 epidemic. As a result, the City Council dedicated over $8 million to youth services from the CARES funding.

Also in 2020, at the October 27th city council meeting, the Mayor and City Council unanimously passed a Resolution to Redefine Public Safety brought forth by Councilmember Jay Schenirer, District 5. The resolution is the first of its kind at any level of governance in the entire nation. Our partners at Public Health Advocates led the 18 month journey that began with listening sessions with young people throughout Sacramento to ask them: what is your definition of safety? From those conversations emerged a resolution draft that would get passed through city departments for feedback and eventually make its way to a City Council meeting for a vote. The resolution broadens the definition of public safety to include prevention, early intervention, and youth services. This was a major win for kid advocates, by passing the resolution the City declared that a public health approach is necessary for kids and youth in our City to live safe and healthy lives!

Sac Kids First Advocacy to Improve the Juvenile Justice System

In 2020, Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill 823, a new law that will lead to the closure of youth prisons in California and transfer all responsibility for young people involved in the criminal justice system to local counties. To implement the law, Sacramento County created a Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council, which has the responsibility of overseeing the county implementation plan and of making recommendations for programming that will be available to youth. In addition, the County is receiving millions in new state funds to implement the law.

In 2021, Sac Kids First led a strong effort to influence the implementation of the new state law by advocating for a partnership between Probation and youth-serving community-based organizations and for a juvenile system that focuses on prevention and safe re-entry. We are urging the Board of Supervisors to invest a significant amount of the new funding received from the state in youth-serving organizations that are best equipped to help young people transition out of the juvenile justice system back into the local community. Going forward, we are asking the Probation Department to be more transparent in its decision-making processes and to seek wider community/youth involvement in the ongoing development of our County Implementation Plan.