Policy Priorities

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:

End Child Poverty

Priority: End Child Poverty.

The Problem:

Today, 14.5 million children in America, nearly 1 in 5, are poor, more than two-thirds living in working families. The burden of poverty falls disproportionately on minority children, with nearly 1 in 3 Black and nearly 1 in 3 Latino children affected compared to 1 in 8 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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Ensure Every Child Access to Health Care

Priority: Ensure Every Child Access to Health and Mental Health Coverage that is Comprehensive, Affordable and Easy to Get and to Keep.

The Problem:

Thanks in large part to Medicaid and CHIP, the number of uninsured children in the United States is at a historic low. While our country has made tremendous progress expanding health coverage for children, today, nearly 4.2 million children under age 19 (5.3 percent) are uninsured — nearly one in nineteen. School-aged children (ages 6-17) are more likely than younger children to be uninsured, and account for the majority of uninsured children in the nation. Many of the uninsured children are actually eligible for coverage under Medicaid or CHIP and just need help accessing it. The children who remain uninsured are often the hardest to reach because of various barriers to enrollment and retention. They are also more likely to be homeless, come from families with mixed immigration status, or have other risk factors for the Cradle to Prison Pipeline.

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 uninsured and underinsured 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, all of which place 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 has access to affordable and comprehensive health and mental health coverage that is easy to get and to keep. With so many of the uninsured children eligible for health coverage but not yet enrolled, we must use innovative strategies, like school-based outreach and enrollment, to help children and families get the health coverage they need to survive and thrive.

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Provide Quality Early Childhood Experiences

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

The Problem:

More than 1 in 5 children under age 5 are poor during the years of greatest brain development. High-quality early childhood development and learning opportunities from birth through age 5 help buffer the negative impacts of growing up poor and lead to lifelong benefits but access to these quality programs is far too limited. Only four percent of eligible infants and toddlers and 41 percent of eligible 3- and 4-year-olds have access to Early Head Start and Head Start and only 23 percent of federal-eligible working parents have access to child care subsidies.

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 ensure that a continuum of high-quality, affordable early childhood development and learning opportunities is available for all children and their families from birth through age 5.

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Ensure Every Child Can Read at Grade Level

Priority: Ensure Every Child Can Read at Grade Level.

The Problem:

Today, nearly 8 of every 10 Black and Hispanic fourth graders and more than 5 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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Protect Children from Abuse and Neglect

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

The Problem:

More than 694,000 children each year in America are abused or neglected, one every 45 seconds. Nearly forty percent of these children get no services at all after the initial investigation. Each year, approximately 650,000 children spend time in foster care.

Why It Matters:

The annual total direct and indirect costs of child maltreatment is $80.3 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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Stop the Criminalization of Children

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 2013, approximately 54,000 children were incarcerated in youth prisons. Children of color make up 68 percent of those in residential detention: 40 percent are Black, 23 percent Hispanic, 2 percent American Indian, and 1 percent Asian. 32 percent are White youth.

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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