Five issue areas that affect the well-being of children are graded in America’s Report Card 2012: Children in the U.S.: Economic Security, Early Childhood, K-12 Education, Permanency & Stability, and Health & Safety. To conclude this blog series we need to think about what we can do to raise these grades.

Clearly, America can do better. This report indicates that while policies regarding children succeed in some areas, we need improvement in others. One of our nation’s greatest successes in 2012 comes from providing over 90 percent of children in the U.S. with health coverage of some kind. This accomplishment can be credited to the success of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which extend coverage children in low-income households. Our nation’s great area for improvement: reducing the number of children living in poverty down from 22 percent. This is the highest child poverty rate America has had in twenty years; it’s time for us to learn from the United Kingdom and prioritize reducing child poverty here in America.

The first step we can take is to vote for politicians who will prioritize children. Each year, First Focus Campaign for Children recognizes “Champions for Children,” members of Congress that support policies which advance the well-being of children. After the election on November 6th, we also need to hold politicians accountable for making decisions that benefit our children. By promoting programs and policies that endorse the well-being of our children, we can ensure that policy makers will promote them too.

Yet we have to remember that this grade is not only for lawmakers. This grade is for everyone in America, We all need to do more to ensure that our children have access to a healthy, safe, and successful future. So the next step we can take starts at home. We all need to work within our local communities to prioritize our children’s needs and help achieve success. To increase their success, we can partner with other stakeholders such as educators, religious leaders, business leaders, and many other who collectively share an interest in helping children. If communities take leadership on prioritizing children and youth, huge improvements could occur and inspire others to do the same. Outside of the community, more advocates and coalitions are needed to amplify the voices of children. In addition, it is our responsibility to show children and youth how public policy affects their lives and teach them ways to express their needs to policy makers.

The message is clear: we need to do better when it comes to meeting the needs of children in the United States. We expect our kids to get good grades, now it’s our turn to hold up our end of the bargain.