Press Releases

Contact: Michele Kayal
Phone: 703-919-8778

Child poverty, child care, children’s mental health, gun violence, and other issues addressed by President

In tonight’s State of the Union address, President Biden made clear that the well-being of our nation’s children will remain a focus of his Administration.

“I have attempted to tweet all references to children in the State of the Union for years now. This was, by far, the most references to children ever,” said First Focus on Children President Bruce Lesley. “We were pleased to hear President Biden announce initiatives to combat child poverty, lower the cost of child care, boost our children’s mental health, combat gun violence, continue efforts to vaccinate all kids, and to put forward other proposals that will help address longstanding issues and inequities among children.”

On Economic Recovery: First Focus Campaign for Children has championed improvements to the Child Tax Credit for more than a decade. Last spring, more than 250 organizations joined us in urging the White House to extend the CTC expansion and other tax improvements that fight child poverty. Since the CTC’s expiration in December 2021, nearly 4 million children have slipped back into poverty, an increase of more than 40%.

We were pleased to hear the President mention the historic improvements to the Child Tax Credit — and the need for quality, affordable child care, and early childhood education — in his call to Congress to create legislation that lowers costs of everyday expenses for working families.

On Child Care: The United States invests fewer public dollars in early childhood education and care relative to GDP than almost all other developed nations, ranking 35th out of 37 countries tracked by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. First Focus on Children has long called for high-quality, affordable child care for our nation’s children and families.

Noting that many families pay up to $14,000 a year for child care per child, the president laid out his plan to cut the cost of child care in half for most families and said that families should not have to pay more than 7% of their income for care of young children. The plan also offers pre-K for every 3- and 4-year-old.

On Mental Health: The government currently spends $15 billion on health care workforce development but only 1% of that is spent to develop the children’s mental health workforce.

In a statement submitted to the Senate Finance Committee today, First Focus policy experts recommended that the government bolster training programs for children’s mental health providers, invest in school-based mental health models, ensure that all children have access to high-quality, affordable mental health care by addressing parity, and implement crisis response systems that address the special needs of children in distress.

We were pleased to hear the President pledge to “take on mental health, especially among our children, whose lives and education have been turned upside down.” In addition to calling for greater access to mental health services, increasing the mental health workforce, and creating full parity between physical and mental health care, the President also blasted social media for accentuating the crisis in children’s mental health. We were pleased that he called on Congress to strengthen privacy protections for children, ban targeted advertising to them, and demand that these companies stop collecting children’s personal data.

On Climate Change: Quite simply, #ItsAKidsIssue. Climate displacement carries serious risks, especially for children, who will suffer impacts to their health, may become vulnerable to trafficking and sexual abuse, and lose access to education. First Focus Campaign for Children has called on the Administration to prioritize children in its climate policy agenda and also joined dozens of advocates in calling for the government to create climate displacement protections that will ultimately protect millions of children. Children account for half of the world’s forcibly displaced people.

We were pleased to hear the President lay out plans that would cut energy costs for families an average of $500 a year while also combatting climate change.  

We were also pleased to hear President Biden call for: 

  • A pathway to citizenship for Dreamers
  • Congressional passage of proven measures to reduce gun violence
  • Continued advances in maternal health care
  • Protection of transgender children through the bipartisan Equality Act.