Labor Day is rapidly upon us and soon the leaves will begin to turn color, the pennant races in baseball will heat up and this year the race for control of the House of Representatives and Senate in Washington, D.C. will undoubtedly reach a red and blue fervor.
Between now and Tuesday, Nov. 6, millions of dollars will be spent that seek to convince you that candidate A is good, and candidate B is not; and vice versa. Many leaders will profess that they are a true champion for children and ask for your vote. However, this mantle must be earned. For too long candidates have talked the talk without walking the walk.
During the upcoming midterm elections, we must ensure that the voice of children is elevated and that policies that are kid-focused and kid-friendly remain front and center. Getting past the rhetoric, as we look at this year’s election, we see three bellwether areas that will define who is really for children, and who is just kidding.
Increased investment in children’s programs
America is experiencing an unprecedented period of economic growth. Unemployment is at record lows, the stock market regularly hits record highs, and corporations are achieving unprecedented profits.
Federal spending is robust, and investments are being made in many critical forward-facing areas — save one. Over the last several years, children and children’s issues have received a diminishing share of federal investments. That’s right — in an era of sustained economic growth, we are investing less in kids.
According to the Children’s Budget Report for 2017, children and children’s programs accounted for about 8 percent of the federal budget — a 5.5 percent decrease from 2014. Cuts to children’s programs negatively impact the health and wellbeing of children today and tomorrow.
Pro-Child candidates should state their position to stop and reverse this trend.
Commitment to full access to health care for all children
Through the success of programs like the Child Health Insurance Program and Medicaid, we have achieved an unprecedented level of health insurance coverage for kids.
But the fact remains that insurance does not equal access and that not only do more than 3.3 million children still not have insurance coverage, millions more lack access to health care services due to a variety of barriers that expand beyond insurance. Going the last mile to achieve universal coverage and access is essential to strengthening the “Child Health Safety Net”.
A pro-child candidate will pledge not to undermine progress made and expand coverage for all children, regardless of insurance or immigration status.
A pro-child candidate will recognize the importance of the critical trifecta of: a) ensuring universal insurance coverage for children b) addressing the medical provider shortage that disproportionately effects rural underserved communities c) full funding for community health centers that bear the service load for many impoverished communities and help address health access barriers.
Commitment to ensuring the health, safety and security of children in our schools
Children require a safe and healthy environment to learn and thrive. In the past few years, our schools have become battlegrounds. Thoughts and prayers are not enough — schools immediately need increased levels of mental health and counseling support.
In all of 2017, there were 44 shootings in elementary and secondary schools, resulting in 25 deaths and 60 injuries. So far in 2018, there have been 28 elementary and secondary school shootings, resulting in 40 deaths and 66 injuries in just half the year.
A pro-child candidate must take a stand to support reasonable gun safety legislation that could prevent the next attack from happening, and increase mental health funding that can work with children exposed to trauma, and provide early detection capacity for teachers to identify potential trouble spots before they erupt.
As parents, our hearts tell us that ensuring children are healthy, safe and ready to learn is the right thing to do. As citizens we should take note that our best science tells us that societies that invest in future generations thrive. Therefore, as voters, as we take stock of what will drive our decision to cast our ballot this coming November, we ask you to consider the points above. We must find out which candidate asking for your vote is really an advocate for children, and who is just kidding.
Dennis Walto is the CEO of Children’s Health Fund. Dennis has over 25 years of senior leadership roles with prestigious global organizations including Save the Children, Population Services International and the International Medical Corps. In addition, he has held key U.S. based leadership positions with Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless, the National Health Care for Homeless Council, and helped lead the development of Children’s Health Fund’s own national program in the early 1990s.