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With the 111th Congress officially adjourned and New Year’s right around the corner, 2010 has become yesterday’s news. And while there is still much room for improvement, and many more battles to be fought for our kids, this past year (even the past few weeks) has brought a number of legislative victories for children. Here is a brief look back on this year’s policy wins that have (or will) improve the lives of our children and families.

Health Care Reform: The first piece of legislation may be slightly stating the obvious, but there is perhaps nothing bigger in terms of legislative victories than the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). In a significant victory for children, ACA preserves and extends the successful Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through September 2019 with full funding extended through fiscal year 2015. Preserving CHIP helps to ensure that low-income children continue to receive affordable, comprehensive, high-quality health coverage. But, maintaining CHIP is not the only win for children and families within ACA—the victories are numerous. To name a few other wins for children within ACA, the new law also ensures that after 6 months of enactment no child can be denied health care coverage due to a “pre-existing condition” and dependent children to stay on their parents’ health plan up to age 26.

Since the law’s passage in March, we’ve seen both the public and private sector rise in opposition to ACA: states are trying to repeal the law through the courts, drug companies are denying life saving drugs to children, and some insurance companies have decided to stop offering coverage to kids altogether. While we understand many states are concerned with how ACA will affect their recession strained budgets, we urge them to remember that data indicates otherwise—billions in savings will be had for states once health care reform is fully implemented. As you can see, while the fight for health care reform is far from over, but there is no denying how important the passage of this legislation was.

Child Nutrition: Currently, one in four American children are at risk of hunger, and with the Great Recession taking its toll on many families, more Americans will require assistance to feed their children now and in the years ahead. On the other hand, childhood obesity rates have tripled in the past three decades, with nearly one in three American children now considered overweight or obese. Our children are facing great challenges when it comes to their health, and that is why the passage of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act was another true victory for our nation’s children. A few notable parts of this legislation include expanding the After School Meals Program to all 50 states, allowing kids in foster care to be automatically eligible for free school meals, modernizing and improving the successful Supplemental Nutrition for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and making great strides in preventing and addressing our national childhood obesity epidemic by reducing junk food in school and improving the nutritional quality of meals.

UI & Tax Compromise: With the U.S. unemployment rate resting at an uncomfortable 9.8 percent, more than 1 in 10 children (10.3%) are now living with an unemployed parent, totaling more than 7.7 million children nationwide. With more Americans out of work and families struggling to make ends meet, Congress passed a number of measures this year to assist families in their time of need. Though the recent tax compromise was met with great opposition, a number of provisions within the legislation were critical for struggling families particularly the year-long extension of unemployment benefits and the two year extension of a number of successful tax credits (which have also been called some of the federal government’s best anti-poverty programs).

Food Safety: While the passage of Food Safety Modernization Act seemed to be overshadowed by a busy lame-duck session, Congress’ recent passage of this legislation is also a victory for children and families, making the food we eat safer. The new law grants the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the power to recall certain foods (which they couldn’t do prior) and requires the FDA to create new regulations for fruits and vegetables, as well as institutes a number of regulations for food facilities, farms, and grocery stores. This legislation takes huge steps in making food safer for all Americans.

While there is clearly other legislation for kids that has been introduced, considered, or regrettably failed in Congress this year, we applaud the legislators who voted for policies with the health and well-being of our children in mind. Although the political climate has created a very different picture heading into the 112th Congress, First Focus remains hopeful that our members of Congress will continue to make the right decisions and make children a priority in 2011.

From all of us at First Focus: We wish you and your family a very happy holidays and happy new year!