Voices for Kids Blog

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The “Better” Care Act is Worse for Kids. A Lot Worse

| June 22, 2017 |

Put simply, the Senate’s so-called Better Care Reconciliation Act would be devastating for children’s health in America.

There is not a single provision in the Senate bill that would make the lives of children in America any better. Not one.

In our country, we have reached a point where 95 percent of children now have health insurance coverage. Sadly, this bill will take us backwards through the imposition of $1 trillion or more in draconian cuts to our nation’s health care system. The cruel irony of its name – the Better Care Reconciliation Act – attempts to hide the fact that the bill would strip coverage and consumer protections from millions of children and families.  Read More

Protecting the Lives of America’s Youngest

| June 22, 2017 |

Remember Jimmy Kimmel’s tear-filled monologue pleading that all children in America should have healthcare, on behalf of his newborn son who underwent heart surgery? Theresa Bohannan, a speaker at yesterday’s “Speaking Out to Protect our Care” event, has a similar story.

Theresa’s son, Dean, was diagnosed with a severe congenital heart defect at only 20 weeks. Dean was born with only one ventricle, and had to undergo three palliative surgeries to “correct” his heart. After Dean’s first open heart surgery, their family’s bill was a staggering 1.3 million dollars.

Theresa Bohannan speaking about her son, Dean.

Theresa praised the Affordable Care Act — particularly, its elimination of lifetime caps and the ability to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions. “The Affordable Care Act is life-saving for children like Dean,” Theresa stated with tear-filled eyes. “They [those trying to repeal the ACA] should be ashamed of what they are doing.”

The clusters of passionate citizens that gathered Wednesday on the East Lawn of the Capitol building, clutching signs that read “Dissent is Patriotic” and “Save My Care,” agree with Theresa. Their purpose was simple: to make noise in order to demonstrate to Congress the direct impact their actions will have on the American public.

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Campaign Reduces Barriers for Foster Youth Who Want to Drive

| June 19, 2017 |

Learning to drive is a rite of passage to young adulthood for millions of youth. It brings new levels of independence and opportunities, enabling young people to take themselves to school, work, and extra-curricular activities. Studies have shown that kids with access to a car do better in school, get better jobs, have more college options, and have more successful careers.

Teens in foster care often face significant barriers to obtaining a driver’s license. Some of these barriers include difficulty securing the parental or guardian permission needed to enroll in driver’s education or to secure an insurance policy, as well as an inability to pay for the various fees associated with becoming a driver. Without a driver’s license, young people in foster care often miss out on age-appropriate opportunities that contribute to success in adulthood.

The Foster Youth Driving Act introduced by US Rep. Danny Davis (IL-7) provides prospective foster parents with training to help prepare a young person to drive. It also provides funds to assist with this process such as assistance with vehicle insurance costs, driver’s education class and testing fees, and fees related to obtaining a driver’s license. Reducing these barriers will increase the sense of normalcy for foster youth and empower them to seek opportunities of higher education and gainful employment.  Read More

We Need Policies to Fight “Lunch Shaming”

| June 2, 2017 |

This past year, news outlets have exposed the act of “lunch shaming” in school districts across the nation. Stories of shaming kids for not being able to pay for lunch have been featured in several states including Alabama, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, and Texas.

Some school policies require workers to deny food to students while others restrict them to a cold, brown bag lunch different from their peers. In an interview, New Mexico State Senator Michael Padilla, who grew up in the foster care system, opened up about his experience of having to work off his debt by mopping the cafeteria floors. “It’s very obvious who the poor kids are in the school.”

While there is a need for a solution for lunch program debts, punishing the child is not the answer. In many situations where there is an accumulated debt there is a need for investigation as to why a student may have an outstanding balance. Some of these reasons include a lack of awareness of the low income eligibility and application requirements, temporary living arrangements, involvement in the foster care system, and changes in a family’s income.

Most often the students affected by these shaming acts are those who are already marginalized and stigmatized by their peers. Additionally, new controversial immigration enforcement acts have caused many mixed status immigrant families to decline enrollment for the reduced lunch program even if they are eligible to do so.

The spotlight on this issue has created an emotional narrative for readers across the country and even sparked action from many private citizens who can’t stand the thought of a child being denied a meal. In Mississippi, New York, Delaware, and Indiana donors have paid for the debts of entire school districts. Advocates have also used Twitter to spread the message and have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for school lunch debts across the nation. While it is encouraging to see such action being taken on this issue, there is still a need for clear policies to ensure that children are safeguarded from carrying this financial burden.

New Mexico was among the first in action by signing into law The Hunger Free Students’ Bill of Rights Act. The bill requires that schools provide all students with a meal regardless of money owed. Pennsylvania has drafted similar legislation. Senate Bill 709, prohibits schools from humiliating children if their guardians/caregivers owe the school lunch money and requires the district to find a way to work with families who may need assistance.

On a federal level, The Anti-lunch Shaming Act was introduced in both the House and Senate with bipartisan support. This bill bans schools from stigmatizing children whose parents cannot afford to pay for their school lunches. It also requires schools to direct communications about unpaid school lunch bills to the parent, rather than penalizing the child. First Focus Campaign for Children has endorsed this legislation.  Read More

President’s Budget Would Push More Children into Poverty

| May 25, 2017 |

There are millions of children each day living in poverty in the U.S. and trying to thrive and, through no fault of their own, they are faced with barriers to success at every stage of their development.

Instead of supporting these children and investing in programs that are proven effective at lifting children out of poverty, the President’s FY18 budget proposes enormous cuts that would result in millions children going hungry, losing their housing, and falling into poverty.

Some of the most devastating cuts for children in poverty include:  Read More

Trump Budget Harms Kids & Families by Slashing $1.5 Trillion from Medicaid and CHIP

| May 23, 2017 |

The FY 2018 budget proposal released today by the Trump Administration includes a host of provisions that would dramatically cut health care access, coverage, and benefits for our nation’s children. Most notably, it contains a Medicaid cut of $610 billion over 10 years, not to mention the additional Medicaid cuts that are part of the House’s plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which includes $839 billion in Medicaid cuts.

Combined, those Medicaid cuts would result in slashing the program by an astonishing $1.5 trillion over a decade.  Read More

Dozens of Children’s Groups Call Trump’s FY 18 Budget Harmful to Kids

| May 23, 2017 |

When 57 of the biggest, most recognizable children’s organizations in the country say the President’s proposed budget is going to harm America’s kids, it would be a good idea to pay attention.

According to the Children’s Budget Coalition (CBC)—which includes dozens of children’s groups across the country—the biggest losers in Trump’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget are America’s children.

With $54 billion in cuts to non-defense discretionary programs (NDD), it would devastate programs that impact children’s development and well-being, particularly in the areas of health, education, nutrition, housing and welfare.  Read More

New Maine Bill Aims to Reduce Child Poverty In Response to Withheld Funds from Governor

| May 22, 2017 |

Due to the in-depth reporting by the Bangor Daily News and the tireless work of child advocates in Maine, we know that over the past five years Maine has withheld and misspent millions in TANF funds rather than appropriately directing this money to support low-income families.

In 2011, TANF served nearly 24,000 Maine children but by 2016, the program served fewer than 8,000 children.[i] These cuts are not due to a decline in need – in 2015, 19,000 children in Maine lived in extreme poverty and this number has increased at a rapid rate since 2011.  Read More

Mother’s Day: Five Things You Can Tell Congress To Do For Kids

| May 11, 2017 |

What better way to honor Mother’s Day than voicing your support for legislation that will strengthen American families and improve children’s health and wellbeing?

Here are five things you can urge your Members of Congress to do:  Read More

To Address Child Poverty, Let’s Start with a Clean Diaper

| May 10, 2017 |

EDITOR’S NOTE: This guest post can also be found on the Voices for Kids Medium publication.

A clean diaper is among the most basic needs of every infant and toddler, as essential as food, shelter, medicine and love. A clean diaper is a fundamental building block for safeguarding the physical, mental, and economic well-being of children and their families.

Yet, one in three American families reports struggling to provide an adequate supply of diapers for their baby—a condition known as “diaper need,”—a hidden consequence of poverty.  Read More