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Salas introduces bill to keep kids safe, prevent abuse

Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) introduced AB 2602, which will boost

revenue for the "Have a Heart, Be a Star, Help Our Kids" program.

The bill is intended to support county child abuse services, increase local child care provider recruitment and fund children's safety programs across California.

According to the Center for Disease Control, unintentional child injury is the leading cause of death for children and teens in the United States, killing approximately 12,000 children and young adults a year, said a press release.

"My priority is to help ensure that our children are being cared for and protected from harm," Salas said. "AB 2602 will revitalize the Kids Plate program and use its funds more efficiently in our underserved communities. Providing these resources to our counties and local organizations will help families prevent injuries, make childcare safer and protect our kids from child abuse."

The Kids Plate program is funded by voluntary purchases of the "Have a Heart, Be a Star, Help our Kids" license plate. Since the program's inception, $50 million has been raised to focus on child abuse prevention, childhood unintentional injury prevention, and childcare safety and health.

"Our goal is to make sure we are directing some of that funding raised by the Kids Plate program to be used efficiently and going towards programs that help children,” Salas said.

Kern County could receive more than $100,000 from the changes AB 2602 makes.

"Supplying local agencies with vital resources for health education and training will benefit all California children and families, especially those living in rural and urban underserved communities,” he said.

Kern County has a large number of children compared to the other counties. Of the total population of Kern County, 30% of it is children under the age of 18.

"This bill will help here locally, especially in towns like Wasco,” Salas said. "The city of Wasco, like many of our small cities in the Central Valley, unfortunately, have some issues with child abuse, and we are trying to make sure our kids are healthy and safe.”

In 2020, an average of seven Kern County children every day were found to be victims of abuse or neglect. "We are trying to make sure there are resources to help people like that and address that average to get it down hopefully."

A number of state-wide organizations that have jumped on board to support the bill.

"We appreciate the leadership of Assemblymember Salas for bringing this bill forward," First 5 Kern Executive Director Roland Maier said. "This a great opportunity to spread this child safety funding equitably across the state and bring dollars into Kern County that will go toward child abuse prevention and child safety, as well as training for child care providers, for many years to come."

AB 2602 will now be referred to the Assembly Rules Committee.


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