Child Watch® Column: "Push for Progress: Children Cannot Wait"

Release Date: February 6, 2015

Marian Wright Edelman

“We are guilty of many errors and many faults, but our worst crime is abandoning the children, neglecting the fountain of life. Many of the things we need can wait. The child cannot. Right now is the time his bones are being formed, his blood is being made, and his senses are being developed. To him we cannot answer ‘Tomorrow.’ His name is today.”
- Nobel Laureate Gabriela Mistral

The President’s budget released this week proposes billions in critical new federal investments for 2016 and beyond to improve the life chances of millions of poor children. It also would prevent more harmful budget cuts in cost effective child investments while providing essential new investments to decrease the morally indefensible number of poor children (14.7 million, 6.5 million of them extremely poor) desperately in need of hope and help. 

So many children have lost ground as the trumped-up fear of excessive debt children did not cause has been used by some in Congress to cut safety net programs we know work. For example, the indiscriminate and unjust sequestration guillotine cut 57,000 children from Head Start and 100,000 low-income households from critical rent assistance. Yet Congress did nothing to curb hugely unfair tax loopholes disproportionately benefitting powerful and wealthy corporations and individuals while starving federal programs millions of poor children depend on to survive. Members of Congress in both parties must now join the President to help our nation move forward by protecting and investing in America’s neediest children and future.

The President’s budget proposal includes major increased investments in the critical early childhood years of rapid brain development which help prevent poverty. The most significant of the President’s new child investments would add $80 billion over 10 years for the Child Care and Development Fund to guarantee child care assistance to all low-income working parents with children under 4. Currently only 1 in 4 eligible children under 5 receives this crucial assistance. New investments in voluntary home visiting, Early Head Start/Child Care Partnerships, Head Start, and Pre-School for All grants (totalling $75 billion over 10 years) for low income 4-year-olds will all bolster child readiness for school. It is hard to find a better investment. Society reaps an $8 return for each dollar invested in high-quality early childhood programs and we cannot afford not to help children and decrease current and future costs. Members of Congress on all sides of the political aisle should put politics aside and build on the important 2014 bipartisan reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant to help ensure states implement the quality improvements that legislation requires and enable more children to benefit. 

There’s much other good news for children in the President’s budget which all Americans and all members of Congress should strongly support: 

  • Four more years of funding for the successful bipartisan Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to ensure 8 million children in working families will continue to have access to high-quality, affordable, and effective child health coverage. If Congress takes no action, CHIP funding will run out this fall.
  • A $1 billion boost for Title I education funding for poor children – a critical program children living in areas of concentrated poverty desperately need. Title I must include strong accountability measures to make sure poor and vulnerable children truly benefit.
  • Funding to make permanent key improvements in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) scheduled to expire at the end of 2017. These two tax credits lifted 5 million children out of poverty in 2013. Making these improvements permanent would prevent one million children falling into poverty and 6.7 million falling deeper into poverty.
  • New help for abused and neglected children and children in foster care including $1.4 billion over 10 years in new guaranteed funding for preventive services to help keep children safely in families and out of costlier foster care, promote family-based care for children with behavioral and mental health needs, and help American Indian children removed from families remain in their communities.
  • An additional $1.8 billion for rental assistance for low-income families and youths aging out of foster care, including $512 million for restoring 67,000 housing choice vouchers lost from sequestration.

The President’s forward looking budget pays for his critical proposed new investments to alleviate child poverty and reverse harmful unjust cuts by eliminating egregious tax loopholes benefitting powerful corporations and the super-wealthy and other spending inefficiencies. Additionally, the President’s balanced approach would generate more than $1 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. However, his laudable increased child investments still would not recoup lost funding for non-defense, non-entitlement programs which would still remain 15 percent below 2010 levels adjusting for inflation and population growth.

As Congress considers budget legislation in the coming weeks, I hope they will stop hurting and start helping our most vulnerable children. The President’s proposed new measures are giant steps towards cutting child poverty. The Children’s Defense Fund’s recent report Ending Child Poverty Now shows we can cut child poverty 60 percent – and Black child poverty 72 percent – immediately by investing just 2 percent more of the federal budget in existing programs that work including the EITC, the CTC, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), housing subsidies, child care subsidies, and subsidized jobs.

Children really do have only one childhood and it is right now. Protecting precious child lives and America’s future demands that we act immediately and move forward and not backwards. Let’s stand up to those who hurt children and dim America’s dream of becoming a just society for all.

Marian Wright Edelman is President of the Children's Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to

Mrs. Edelman's Child Watch Column also appears each week on The Huffington Post.

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Here's what others have said:

Submitted by Jake Streeter at: March 2, 2015
It hurst my heart that issues such as this are still under debate. The need to invest in the educate our children is evedent. It is unfortunate that in America, only the children of the very elite have been garanteed a quality education, while children of lower economic status struggle to no fault of their own. It is important that we continue to pressure our ellected officials to make sure that they support legislature that will address this issue.

Submitted by FedUpGranny at: February 16, 2015
I thought we were ending programs that duplicate what Affordable Care Act does? These worker families certainly qualify according to their income, why haven't they signed up? We don't need more than one program for the poor to siphon dollars in different directions, if we want an efficient and healthy Healthcare system that works for the least to the most people. Equally, but with quality, and good caring folks over the patients that listen to them. I'm just a little confused, especially when privatised healthcare was rejecting these same people for pre-existing conditions or price? Help me out here, what is the ACA for again? Famis is the same as ACA so why 2 programs on the tax payer that do the same thing? That's all I'm saying. If the workers truly can't afford health coverage from the job or it's crappy insurance for emergency only, then they qualify for ACA if their program doesn't cover what they need when they need it.

Submitted by FedUpGranny at: February 16, 2015
That's why I get so mad at the NAACP, that even try to use some of the donations to build colleges. They knew racism never ended and just got more sneaky, yet left the children unprotected, unprepared for the truth, and no foundation for education we can fund for ourselves. As tax payers, we can have whatever amount we want to go to whomever we want, yet NO one thought to either put part of the donations over the century into ONE college for the underpriviledged, to have an opportunity for education free, by taxpayers if their grades, made the grade? This generation, once out from under financial tyranny, will rise to this occassion, but right now, the stole so much, and sold US out so often, it will be hard to gain foundation to begin, but it can start now. WE can donate a portion, say 2% of tax earnings to start moving our dollars in a positive way, and get the paid off lobbyist, out of our children's education. They've failed so miserably at recognizing God given talents, when book smarts aren't their strongest suit, but a skilled trade to fall back on.

Submitted by pennyives at: February 9, 2015
I am glad that included in this article is provisions for youths aging out of foster care and needing housing. This is HUGE! I aged out of foster care and if it wasn't for the kind help I got from my church (believe me, I was one of the very few and very lucky to have church like that), I would have been on the streets like many other ex-foster youths. Government help up until age 18 is needed, but so is a helping hand up at the beginning of adulthood also!

Submitted by Joan at: February 7, 2015
Yes, we MUST end child poverty. It is a national disgrace and inexcusable.

Submitted by kdgteach at: February 7, 2015
As a teacher of kinder kids from poverty, systemic changes are needed now. The chronic stress and unpredictability these young kids must live in changes their brain & soul. It reminds me of the overt racism of the 60s in the MS delta, my birthplace. But no, there aren't any objections to this gross injustice. It seems American's heart has hardened as federal policy as well as state policy work to isolate these kids. Meanwhile, their families are so confused & alienated they don't vote and things get worse and worse. Those in power know what they are doing. Shameful!

Submitted by Conjure Woman at: February 7, 2015
One of my future dreams when we return to New Orleans from NYC is to establish a small, child friendly house - The Snuggery. For youngsters in crisis, wending through the court system, perhaps their parents are incarcerated - and these vulnerable young lives are suddenly up-ended! Someday...

Submitted by "Doc" B at: February 6, 2015
First of all, thanks for the Mighty God we serve! I'm a teacher, and, an advocate for students in the Prince George's County area. When I first began substituting and teaching long- term in the middle and high schools, my first observation was, why are there soda bottles and candy wrappers present? Seeing more on the high school level. Beginning in the year 2000, I began to take a survey of how many students eat breakfast? How many students don't eat breakfast? How many eat lunch? How many students don't eat lunch? As I taught, I admonished the students about the importance of eating something of a nutritious value. As we know, no one is asked to be born. When a child is born, it must be cared for in every way!!! WE ARE ALL A CREATION OF GOD! Children should have the right to enjoy their childhood years. They should not have to take the role of an adult- parent, as they're developing. I'm whole- heartily concerned about the well-being of our youth. Where have the parents gone? For one thing, the ownership of parenting has changed to a degree. Here's my premise: Too many young people are having unprotected sex- young teenage boy is not there, and the young teenage girl has to seek the assistance of her mother. This has become a 'hereditary vicious cycle'. Therefore, that child/children now has the potential to give birth at a young age. THIS HAS TO STOP!!! When there's not much education in the home, Congress cutting the budget of needed programs, economy is bad, and employment hard to find, it becomes a pipeline for destruction. Young people need the resources to help in these situations! Congress, along both political sides must take a bipartisan stance to budget funding to give them a chance. The United States of America is spending too much money on renting pandas, building spaceships and satellites to explore the universe, when there are children in poverty. To be honest, there are an alarming number of children who are poor, and CAN'T EVEN GO TO SOME OF THE MUSEUMS, and some of them are free!!! There are a lot of poverty- stricken children who are bright, but, may never get the opportunity to reach their dreams! Children need to be capable, connected and contributing to their country. WE MUST PROTECT OUR CHILDREN!!!

Submitted by mary ann at: February 6, 2015
Looking forward to following Dr. Edelman's column in the Huffington Post!