ThinkstockPhotos-491705959I am pleased to announce that First Focus has launched our new Voices for Kids blog. It is intended to be a platform to raise attention to the most pressing policy issues of importance to our nation’s children.

The name pays homage to our outstanding partners across the country from the Voices for America’s Children network. And, our goal on this platform is to raise the voices of advocates for children, as it is well beyond the time to raise our voices and demand fairness, attention, and the prioritization of children at the White House, the capitol, governors’ mansions, and state legislatures across this country. The fact is that children simply can’t wait. They need our help now.

We offer this blog as a place where advocates for children who wish to share their ideas, their beliefs, and their voices to the cause of improving the lives of our nation’s children can raise their voices and be supported. As child advocates, we cannot sit back and let others guide, direct, and determine the priorities of our nation and our states, as they will always leave children behind. We must continue to demand better – for the smallest among us.

James W. Frick said, “Don’t tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I’ll tell you where they are.” That is true in government too. In just a few years, the Urban Institute, in its Kids’ Share report, has projected that federal spending on interest on the debt will exceed all federal spending on children. We cannot allow that to become the order of our national priorities – debt interest payments over investments in our children and our future. For the next generation, not only will they will be the ones to bear the burden of this debt, they are being shortchanged. In fact, children are one-quarter of the population but just 8 percent of the share of all federal spending. That must change, and it will require a significant reordering of our national priorities.

As an unfortunate example of where children stand, one in five, or 20 percent of our nation’s children, live in households with income below the poverty line. We know the enormous negative ramifications that this creates for children in virtually every aspect of their development and growth. We also know the long-term costs to our nation are enormous. And yet, who among our leaders is out there demanding that child poverty be a national priority? We must be those voices.

With respect to child health, the House of Representatives just passed H.R. 2, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, which provides for a permanent fix to a problem with the Medicare payment system for doctors and a two-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

While we are certainly extremely grateful that the House of Representatives acted to extend funding for CHIP for two years, over 1,500 groups  from across the country called for a four-year extension of the program. Fortunately, the Senate has an opportunity to fix extend CHIP for four years. We strongly urge that it do so. Otherwise, in two short years, CHIP funding will run out and kids will be put at risk once again.

Meanwhile, in our nation’s public schools, corporate interests are gaining influence and traction in their effort to undermine our public schools, demonize our teachers, and test and retest our students – all in the interest of corporate privatizers, charter school promotion, and test makers. This is not a recipe for progress. Fortunately, in this area, voices are rapidly rising to push back in defense of public schools, in support of teachers, in support of equity, and in opposition to the over-testing of our children. That movement must continue.

Schools are also seeing an increase in the number of homeless students and struggling to serve them. In the 2012-2013 school year, there were 1.2 million homeless students identified by the Department of Education, an 8 percent increase from the previous school year. But we have another federal agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, that undercounts the number of homeless children in order to try and minimize both the problem and the need. Fortunately, there is a solution, and we must demand action to pass bipartisan legislation (the Homeless Children and Youth Act) as soon as possible. This legislation would help fix, rather than continue to ignore, this tragic and unacceptable crisis for our nation’s homeless children.

When children suffer from abuse and neglect, we see the tragic headlines, the violence, and even death in our daily news. A disproportionate number of these children are very young and completely defenseless.

Yet, we have a system that far too often fails to help strengthen families by preventing abuse and neglect whenever possible and doesn’t take necessary but thoughtful action to give children the best possible change to grow up in a safe, stable, loving, and supportive permanent home. And, despite the deadly consequences of our society’s failure to protect children from abuse and neglect, any efforts we do undertake are far too often done on the cheap. Federal investments in this area have declined dramatically in recent years and are projected to decline even further.

Our choice is clear: either more children will be lost due to parental and societal neglect and inaction, or we can build a system that reflects our values where all kids are protected and safe and have a chance to reach their full potential. That takes money and we must demand it for our nation’s most vulnerable children.

So please, speak up, stand up, and sound off. We want and encourage you to voice the needs of children loud and often. Feel free to share the voices of others in this blog through email, social media, or whatever you find works best in order to raise awareness to the plight of children and to demand change from our nation’s leaders. Children often cannot speak up for themselves, but we can and must.

If you would like to submit a blog, please contact Madeline Daniels in our office. Let’s build a movement and a chorus of voices for kids…together.

Speak up, stand up, and sound off for kids in the new @First_Focus Voices for Kids blog: #InvestInKids
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First Focus is a bipartisan advocacy organization dedicated to making children and families the priority in federal policy and budget decisions.

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