Child Watch® Columns
Child Watch Columns: Children's Health
President Lyndon B. Johnson said this fifty-two years ago on July 30, 1965 as he signed the bipartisan legislation that established the federal Medicaid Program and thanked former President Harry S. Truman and the many members of Congress from both parties who had laid the groundwork and worked tirelessly over many years to make the Medicaid program and its protections reality.
As Senate Republicans spent the last few days in closed door meetings frantically trying to plot new ways to achieve their wretched plans to destroy the Affordable Care Act and end Medicaid as we know it, hundreds of people of faith spent our week gathered at the annual Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry to rekindle our shared conviction that all great religious traditions call us to acts of love and justice especially for children who are impoverished, vulnerable, marginalized and excluded and to renew our deep and shared commitment to resisting evil and injustice with unrelenting determined nonviolent action.
I learned my first lessons about injustice and health as a little Black girl growing up in segregated Bennettsville, South Carolina. I remember my parents’ and my sadness over the senseless death of little Johnny Harrington, who lived three houses down from our church who died before he reached 10 because his hard working grandmother didn’t know about the need for or have the money for him to get a tetanus shot after he stepped on a rusted nail. I also remember being awakened in the middle of the night after a Black migrant family’s car collided with a White truck driver’s vehicle on the highway in front of our parsonage, and the horror I felt when my Daddy, my siblings and I witnessed the White ambulance driver and attendants arrive on the scene only to leave behind the seriously injured Black migrant worker after they saw that the White truck’s passengers were not hurt.
It is unfathomable to me that week after week I must continue to defend the Medicaid program that for more than 50 years has protected the health and well-being of tens of millions of America’s most vulnerable. We know many of the 37 million children enrolled in Medicaid today are from poor or low-income families and that 40 percent of children with special health care needs benefit from Medicaid. Among these children are almost half a million foster children, nearly 40 percent of them under age six. These children, invisible to many, are the most vulnerable of the vulnerable.
Every July 4th Americans come together to celebrate the promise of our Declaration of Independence. We know for millions of Americans our nation has never fully lived up to that creed, but for all who still believe in the American ideal this has never been a reason to give up. Instead in every generation a new group of women and men and youths and even children have come forward to do their part in pushing America closer to its full promise. The current administration and Congress show how far we still have to go.
Past Child Watch® Columns about Children's Health