Letters and Correspondences

Letter: Candidates & Elected Officials, will you Commit to Kids?

First Focus on Children organized the following letter — signed by over 50 fellow advocacy organizations — demanding that sitting and aspiring lawmakers offer specific policies that support and advance our country’s children.

Joined by organizations including Save the Children Action Network, ZERO TO THREE, the National WIC Association, the National Diaper Bank Network, and others, First Focus sent the open letter below — calling on our nation’s leaders to produce policies to address child poverty, homelessness, health care, nutrition, immigration, and other issues.

To candidates and elected officials:

As advocates for children, we represent more than 74 million young people in the U.S. Kids can’t vote, and they don’t have SuperPACs, but they are our future.

We face concurrent crises of COVID-19 spread, economic instability, and the ongoing impact of racist policies. This is a watershed moment that will affect every child in our country, and business as usual is not an option. Children are calling on us to meet the moment.

The budget and policy decisions we make today will impact kids’ futures in ways we can’t yet fathom: Will we give all children access to the technology they need to learn? Will we safely reopen schools? Will we ensure that every child has healthcare and nutritious food? Will we make high-quality childcare accessible for families returning to work? Will we dismantle racist systems that cause inequity in healthcare and education?

Will we not merely sustain, but invest in our nation’s children?

We, the undersigned, are calling upon sitting and aspiring lawmakers to rise to the moment and commit to kids.

Budgets and policies reflect our priorities. We are asking to see our sitting and aspiring leaders’ plans to address the following issue areas:

  1. Child Poverty: The U.S. has the research and resources to reduce child poverty, yet in 2018, 11.9 million children were living in poverty. Due to persistent institutional racism, Black and Hispanic children experience poverty at nearly three times the rate of white children. Our leaders must have a plan to end child poverty.
  2. Housing: Every child deserves a safe place to live. Public schools identified more than 1.5 million children experiencing homelessness in 2017-18, a 10 percent increase from the previous year, and shelter in place orders only magnified the importance of safe housing for kids. Our leaders must have a plan to secure housing for all.
  3. Early Childhood Care and Education: Early childhood is a critical time for development and learning. Our leaders must have a plan to ensure that all families have access to high-quality, affordable childcare and high-quality education.
  4. Health Care: Public health has never been more vulnerable, and an estimated half a million children could lose health coverage during this pandemic. Our leaders must have a plan to guarantee health coverage for all children.
  5. Nutrition: Schools closures, and the subsequent loss of school-provided meals, have highlighted unprecedented rates of food insecurity for children. Our leaders must have to plan to make sure no child in the United States goes hungry.
  6. Child Welfare: Children are at an increased risk of maltreatment as families face economic, health, parental, and employment-related stressors during the pandemic. Our leaders must have a plan to protect children from abuse and neglect.
  7. Immigration: The current administration treats immigrant children and families reprehensibly. Our leaders must have a plan to enact and uphold a “best interest of the child” standard for all immigration decisions.
  8. Budget: Out of every $100 the federal government spends in FY2020, only $7.48 goes to children. To successfully enact the policies above, our leaders must prioritize children in federal budget decisions.
  9. Representation in Government: Finally, we ask that our leaders designate advocates for children in government. Many countries have successfully established a Children’s Commissioner, an independent office that holds the government accountable to protecting and investing in children.

The pandemic has exposed deep inequities in our nation’s social and economic infrastructure: from healthcare to housing insecurity, American children and families are feeling the ripple effects of this crisis.

Many of us took comfort in early reports that kids are less likely to contract the virus or suffer long-term health impacts. Now it’s clear that the health risks are not so simple — kids are at risk, albeit in different ways — and that the threats of COVID-19 extend far beyond physical health outcomes.

Gambling with the well-being of our kids and their families is unacceptable. We need you, our elected and aspiring leaders, to have plans and policies that account for the unique concerns and circumstances facing children.

We have committed to fighting for kids. Will you?

This letter signed by the following organizations:

  • Alliance for Early Success
  • Alliance for Strong Families and Communities
  • Baby’s Bounty
  • Child Labor Coalition
  • Child Welfare League of America
  • Children’s Advocacy Alliance
  • Children’s HealthWatch
  • Chippewa Valley Child Poverty
  • Coalition Coalition for Community Schools
  • Every Child Matters Early
  • Childhood Investment Corporation
  • Family Focused Treatment Association
  • First 5 Association of California
  • First Focus on Children
  • Futures Without Violence
  • Global Children’s Campaign
  • Groundwork Ohio
  • Hawaii Children’s Action Network
  • Hope Supply Co.
  • Institute for Educational Leadership
  • Kentucky Youth Advocates
  • Kids Impact Initiative
  • National Association for Children’s Behavioral Health
  • National Association of ESEA State Program Administrators
  • National Center on Adoption and Permanency
  • National Children’s Campaign
  • National Diaper Bank Network
  • National Early Childhood Program Accreditation
  • National Network for Youth
  • National WIC Association
  • New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies
  • Ohio Childrens Alliance
  • Our Children Oregon
  • Partners for Our Children
  • Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children
  • Prevent Blindness
  • Prevent Child Abuse Illinois
  • Public Advocacy for Kids (PAK)
  • Rhode Island KIDS COUNT
  • Save the Children Action Network
  • School-Based Health Alliance
  • Share Our Strength
  • Social Action Linking Together (SALT)
  • United Way of Buffalo and Erie County
  • Urban Colors Arts and Mentoring
  • Voices for Illinois Children
  • Voices for Vermont’s Children
  • Voices for Virginia’s Children
  • Volunteers of America Northern New England
  • Wisconsin Council of Churches

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