Policy Priorities

Policy Priorities image of kids

Priorities for elected officials to ensure the future of every child

We are committed to reclaiming our country, our core values and spiritual foundation for our children and families. Too many children live in poverty and suffer from preventable illness, neglect, abuse, inadequate education and violence. These problems are solvable if we each do our part. Right now, our nation has the ability to:

 

Priority: End Child Poverty.

The Problem: Today, 14.7 million children in America, nearly 1 in 5, are poor, two-thirds living in working families. The burden of poverty falls disproportionately on minority children, with nearly 2 in 5 Black and 1 in 3 Latino children affected compared to less than 1 in 10 White children.  

Why It Matters: Poor children lag behind their peers in many ways beyond income; they are less healthy, trail in emotional and intellectual development, and do not perform as well in school. The challenges that poor children face accumulate and interact, casting long shadows throughout their lives. Every year that we keep children in poverty costs our nation half a trillion dollars in lost productivity, poorer health and increased crime.

What Must Be Done: We must end poverty through investments in high quality education for every child, livable wages for families, income supplements like the Earned Income and Child Tax Credits, job training and job creation, and work supports like child care and health coverage.

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Priority: Ensure Every Child and Pregnant Woman Access to Affordable, Seamless, Comprehensive Health and Mental Health Coverage.

The Problem: Today, 7.2 million children are uninsured. Considerably more than 500,000 pregnant women are uninsured and lack timely access to essential health services. With the recent passage of the Affordable Care Act, new opportunities to expand and strengthen coverage to millions of the most vulnerable children offer the promise of coverage, but will require action to realize this promise.   

Why It Matters: People who are uninsured live sicker and die sooner. The United States is the wealthiest nation in the world, yet children's health status in our country as measured by selected indicators is among the worst in the industrialized world.  Poor health in childhood can cast long shadows later in life and funnel tens of thousands of children and youths into the Cradle to Prison Pipeline.  Undiagnosed, untreated and poorly managed health and mental health problems increase a child’s chances of being born at low birthweight, starting school not ready to learn, falling behind in school, dropping out, being neglected or abused, and ending up in costly juvenile detention facilities, putting them at greater risk for entering the adult criminal justice system, and for lower earnings as adults.   

What Must Be Done: We must ensure every child and pregnant woman has access to affordable, seamless, comprehensive health and mental health coverage and services. With more than two-thirds of uninsured children already eligible for health coverage, states now have new tools and funding to get eligible children enrolled, and to expand the reach of the health care safety net to include all children. 

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Priority: Provide High Quality Early Childhood Development Programs for All.

The Problem: Only three percent of eligible infants and young children (0-3) are enrolled in Early Head Start and less than half of children eligible for Head Start are enrolled. Quality child care and preschool programs are crucial to level the playing field and ensure every child entering school is ready to learn.

Why It Matters: Studies reveal that those enrolled in high quality early childhood education programs are subsequently more likely to complete higher levels of education, have higher earnings, be in better health and be in stable relationships, and are less likely to commit a crime or be incarcerated.

What Must Be Done: We must make early childhood development programs accessible to every child by ensuring such programs are affordable, available and of high quality.

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Priority: Ensure Every Child Can Read at Grade Level by Fourth Grade and Guarantee Quality Education through High School Graduation.

The Problem: Today, more than 8 of every 10 Black and Hispanic fourth graders and almost 6 out of every 10 White fourth graders in our public schools cannot read at grade level. Those unable to read well are at high risk of grade repetition and dropping out of school.

Why It Matters: Attainment of a high school diploma is the single most effective preventive strategy against adult poverty. Yet the U.S. has the sixth lowest high school graduation rate among the 26 industrialized market economies.

  • American 15 year olds rank 17th among industrialized countries in Reading;
  • American 15 year olds rank 31st among industrialized countries in Math;
  • American 15 year olds rank 23rd among industrialized countries in Science.

What Must Be Done: To help each child reach his/her full potential and succeed in work and life, we need to ensure our schools have adequate resources to provide high quality education to every child.

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Priority: Protect Children from Abuse and Neglect and Connect Them to Caring Permanent Families.

The Problem: More than 750,000 children each year in America are abused or neglected, one every 47 seconds. Forty percent of these children get no services at all after the initial investigation. Each year, approximately 800,000 children spend time in foster care. On any given night, 200,000 children are homeless — 1 in every 4 of the homeless population.

Why It Matters: The annual total direct and indirect costs of child maltreatment are estimated to be nearly $104 billion. Children left with no permanent family connections or a connection with a caring adult have no one to whom they can turn for social, emotional or financial support and face numerous barriers as they struggle to become self-sufficient adults.

What Must Be Done: We must expand prevention and specialized treatment services for children and their parents, connect children to caring permanent families, improve the quality of the child welfare workforce and increase accountability for results for children.

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Priority: Stop the Criminalization of Children at Increasingly Younger Ages and Invest in Prevention and Early Intervention.

The Problem: A Black boy born in 2001 has a 1 in 3 chance, a Latino boy a 1 in 6 chance and a White boy a 1 in 17 chance of going to prison in his lifetime. In 2003, almost 15,000 girls were incarcerated — 1 in every 7 juveniles in residential placement.

Why It Matters: States spend about three times as much money per prisoner as per public school pupil. Unless we focus our efforts on early intervention and prevention, rather than punishment, we are robbing thousands of youth each year of their futures and our country of vital human resources.

What Must Be Done: We must reduce detention and incarceration by increasing investment in prevention and early intervention strategies, such as access to quality early childhood development and education services and to the health and mental health care children need for healthy development.

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