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Show Notes

In this episode, our hosts Bruce Lesley and Messellech “Selley” Looby chat with Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, co-founder and executive director of MomsRising, an organization that champions workforce issues facing women, mothers and families. Rowe-Finkbeiner co-founded MomsRising in 2006 after a family health crisis pushed her out of the labor force and helped her realize the challenges that American women and families face. In this episode of Speaking of Kids, Rowe-Finkbeiner discusses the policies that she advocates for in her role as the organization’s executive director, such as paid family and medical leave, affordable child care, fair pay for child care workers, and the Child Tax Credit.

Learn more about policies and advocacy work that can help families thrive: 

To learn more about Moms Rising, check out their website and follow them and Kristin on social Donate to RxKids on Give Directly. 

To join the conversation, follow First Focus on Children on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Connect with our hosts and tell us what you would like to hear on the podcast at:

Full Transcript

Bruce Lesley 0:03
In honor of Women’s History Month, I’m going to give a shout out today to an educator from the great state of Texas, Rita Pierson. She gave a TED talk called every kid needs a champion. Here she is on the TED stage talking about kids.

Rita Pierson 0:19
Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insist that they become the best that they can possibly be.

Bruce Lesley 0:31
From First Focus on Children. This is Speaking Of Kids. I’m Bruce Lesley

Selley Looby 0:35
and I’m Messellech Looby. Speaking Of Kids is a podcast that puts kids at the center of public policy.

Bruce Lesley 0:47
We have an absolute powerhouse for a guest today.

Selley Looby 0:50
We sure do. She is on fire,

Bruce Lesley 0:52
we’re on her in a minute with solids. What are we talking about today?

Selley Looby 0:56
Today, we get into mom’s families, the child tax credit, and all the other things that come in those early years of a kid’s life, you know, these really invisible forces that can dramatically shape a kid’s life and one have an entire family,

Bruce Lesley 1:10
you know, when we think about all the things that kids need its champions throughout their childhood. And so it starts at birth with the parents and the grandparents and the pediatricians and the OBGYN and it just moves on from there to child care workers and early childhood professionals and teachers and coaches. And it really gets back to Rita Pierson’s quote, which is that every child does deserve a champion and multiple champions, in fact,

Selley Looby 1:38
absolutely, I mean, I’m all for having a whole team, you know, surrounding a child. And I know as a mama bear it oftentimes, like you said, Bruce, it starts with, you know, a mom. And that’s what you know I love so much about our guest today is when you become a mom or a parent to Bruce, you have four little ones, but our big ones now. But, you know, really starts with a mom, you know, and just how much it changes your life when you become a mom and how much you want to protect. And, and then you start to pay attention to the system. And you realize that that system is not always set up and designed to support families. What

Bruce Lesley 2:17
we know is that when we think about advocacy, you know, kids also need those same types of supports. And so one of the great things is, you know, there’s groups like ours who advocate for kids, but then there’s, you know, groups that our guest today represents, which is MomsRising, and they bring the perspective of moms and their advocacy for kids. And so those things come together in really important ways. They’ve been just such tremendous partners to us on Child and Family Policy and Advocacy.

Selley Looby 2:49
Yes, oftentimes, it takes somebody that has run into some issues and really needs to reach out to get support. And when you start that process, that’s when you start to realize how it works or doesn’t work.

Bruce Lesley 3:06
Today, our guest is Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner. She is the co-founder and executive director of MomsRising.

Selley Looby 3:13
Yes, MomsRising is an organization with over a million members at the forefront of addressing vital issues affecting women, mothers and families. They educate the public and mobilize grassroots efforts to connect women’s voices with leaders at all levels of government. They also hold corporations accountable for fair treatment and product safety.

Bruce Lesley 3:34
Kristin, thanks so much for joining us today on the Speaking Of Kids podcast.

Kristin Rowe-Finkbender 3:37
Thanks so much for having me.

Selley Looby 3:39
Thank you so much for being here with us. And you know, we just kind of want to start with, we recognize you’ve been in public policy and advocacy and politics for over two decades. And you know, what really drew you to the cause of children and moms and families. So

Kristin Rowe-Finkbender 3:54
much drew me to this cause. So it’s hard for me not to answer with like eight or 10 hours of boring experiences. But these experiences aren’t boring. I mean, the biggest thing that drew me is that the experiences that I had, as a new mom, are experienced by so many people across the country. And so I’ll share a little bit about my experience. But the big thing is, is that when this many people are having the same types of struggle at the same time, I realized we don’t have an epidemic of personal failures. It’s not individual moms, dads, parents caregivers fault. We have a national structural crisis that we can and must solve together. So what happened to me, I was raised by a mom who was primarily single through my childhood, and had always planned to be able to stay in the labor force after I had my kids to help put that food on the table to be self reliant, you know, to be able to have that security, economic security. And then my son was born and he was born with a primary immune deficiency. We had an unplanned hell crisis. And I also had some health crisis, my immune system and his were not friendly, shall we say. And so in that moment, I didn’t have any paid family medical leave. And again, I was not alone, the United States of America has no national paid family medical leave program, even though the majority of countries on the actual planet Earth have this policy in place, because it lifts our economy. It lifts our families, it lifts our country, it lifts our businesses, it saves lives, it saves taxpayer dollars, I could go on again for 500 hours about the benefits of this type of policy, which is why every other country almost has it. But in this moment, I was pushed out of the labor force, like hundreds of 1000s of parents are pushed out of the labor force every year. And I was depressed, I was lonely. I was dealing with an infant with this unplanned health crisis that I did not know how to deal with till I was in like an extreme learning curve. And I did what any normal person does, I called the US Census. This is who I call for help people, the US Census, it’s a hurry to call the US Census. Why? I wanted to know, if I was alone, I wanted to know what was happening. I knew that if this experience has happened to my mom, who is again, single for most of my childhood, it would have been an outright disaster. Because when you’re pushed out of a labor force, you also lose your job linked healthcare, you also have an incredible struggle being able to pay for childcare, when you can get maybe back into the labor force because childcare costs more than college. It’s like the dominoes of doom in the United States of America when you have a kid without any kind of care infrastructure that actually allows everyone to work to live and to rise. And so I called the US Census, and I was like, What is going on? And they said, We don’t know. Because we do not track unreal, numerated or unpaid labor, we can tell you what’s happening to parents who are married by looking at the shadow of the unpaid person in the married spouses salary. And they said, we can tell you that you’re seven times is likely to live in poverty, if you are out of the labor force having kids, which you know, sometimes people think of stay at home moms is sitting by the pool eating bonbons. But in fact, the opposite is the case. So this is my long story of it was that moment that wake up call both with my own experience with my mother’s experience. And with calling the US Census of all places that I realized a I’m not alone, be we have a crisis. And see it is a solvable crisis, because we together have the power to solve these crises that we face, it doesn’t take rocket science. Again, most other countries have these policies in place. Many states have these policies in place, we know how to solve these problems, we just need the political capital and power and push consistent persistent push to bring them over the finish line. So that’s my long. That’s our story.

Bruce Lesley 7:58
And as I recall, you all started around the same time, the First Focus was created, what made you think about creating your own nonprofit around the issues of moms? And why did you do that? Like, why did you think there was a need for that?

Kristin Rowe-Finkbender 8:12
Oh, this is also an overly long story, I gotta learn how to say these things more concise. I called the US Census, I went down this rabbit hole continuing the story. And I started writing about these policy areas. I started writing about what’s happening with parents in America, I started writing about, you know, why have we ignored what’s happening with care? And what’s the history behind that I wrote a couple books. I wrote a lot of articles. And one of the books I wrote, I co wrote with John blade called the motherhood manifesto. It was also turned into a documentary film that was aired all over the place. And resources were coming in from the book and from the film, and John blades who I co founded, MomsRising with also co founded move on, I had been working in the environmental movement doing political work. So we had a lot of political experience. And so we looked at each other. And we were like, there’s no one that we can see opening avenues at that time for the voices of moms to be heard by people who have the power to make the changes we seek need, that reflect our contributions and our needs. We first did a survey of about six groups. And we said, who’s doing this opening avenues for moms voices to be heard on care. And by the way, 86% of women in America have kids by the time they’re 44 years old. So this is not a small group of people. And the sixth group said, We don’t know. So we went to 12 groups. They said, No, nobody here eventually did a survey of 48 groups, you know, who’s opening avenues in this particular area for the voices of moms to be heard in partnership with moms. And then finally, with the blessing of those first 48 groups, we started, MomsRising with the revenue from the book and the film, and our first house party. We were super lucky. So we had a house parties Across America, looking at the film discussing these topics talking about politics, our first house party was actually held in the Russell building of Congress and the co sponsors. This is really interesting history of the house party or Senator Barack Obama, Senator Clinton, Senator Dodds, and Senator Kennedy. And three of those four went on to run for president in the next week. Starting beginning but you know,

Bruce Lesley 10:30
that’s awesome. Yeah,

Selley Looby 10:31
I love your story, Kristin. Nothing helps frame and reorient your mind then becoming a mother and a parent, I have three of my own. And I’ve had the privilege of working at First Focus now almost 11 years. And I also serve on the board of an organization called district motherhood that really focuses black motherhood and just the journey, and there’s not enough attention that’s drawn to the shifts that take place. You know, one question I have for you now is like, you know, we’re living in this crazy new reality. That’s our world post COVID. A lot of things going on in the beltway that too many to name, but what really keeps you up at night, you know, now being an election year, you know, we’ve been around but both MomsRising and First Focus have been around nearly 20 years, a lot of the issues that we’re working on remain the same. And it’s not rocket science. You know, and I always make the argument that this is a national security issue, you know, centering children and families should be a top priority of the US government. But what keeps you up at night?

Kristin Rowe-Finkbender 11:33
So many things, keep me up at night. One of the things that’s happening in America right now that keeps me up at night, is the level of targeted disinformation that is aimed at moms in particular, by the MAGA extremist Republican contingent, is so high, it’s so pervasive, and it’s so damaging. And so we know just to give a little history of why that’s happening and what happened when Donald Trump lost The White House, he said, with Steve Bannon saying this publicly even to NPR, that the way back to the White House was through the school boards, because they’re angling at those 76 Million Mom, voters in the United States of America, to pit mom voters against one another use disinformation of the most ridiculous, hateful, harmful kind to grab votes. And we’ve seen that happening. We’ve seen that happening over and over again. So what keeps me up at night is what is the impact of this disinformation? Often when you’re receiving disinformation, you don’t know it, right? Like it’s actually quite effective. And so I’m going to share the positive because I have to, that’s my gut. And one of the positives, is that in the last election, the moms against Liberty, I can’t say moms for liberty, I’ll just say it, moms against Liberty of their 130 endorsed races that they did at the school board level, they lost 70% and they lost 70% Because people woke up to the disinformation they woke up to the harm that’s happening in their communities because of, you know, the push for book bans for censorship for pushing out engage communities and families like not okay, people not okay, but it’s gonna get weirder. Before we get to November, it’s gonna get more toxic and more harmful. And that has impacts not just in what we think but in the culture around us. And what we’re thinking about, you know, basically nihilism and democracy and you know, how hopeful we all are. And one of the really big pieces of disinformation that keeps me up at night right now, is the disinformation that’s been pushed out that people are checked out, locked out apathetic and disengaged. And I just want to stand here with all of you and share because I know you’re seeing the opposite to and MomsRising. We’re seeing double the on the ground turnout than expected right now. People are not checked up. We just have over 6500 Get out the vote. Volunteers already stepped forward when I’ve been asking for them yet for November, you know, we’re expecting over 70,000 Get out the vote volunteers. So what keeps me up at night is that in particular, the communities that we work with every day because we are so politically powerful and numerous are being targeted by the far right with some really yucky stuff, aimed again at pitting us against each other and a vote grab. What gives me hope is what we’ve done together together. We not only, for example, helps pass the Affordable Care Act Hello, hello, hello, but also protected it more than 50 times even when people said we couldn’t protect it. You know, recently we passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, the pump for Nursing Mothers act one year full health care coverage for postpartum people and states that take it up, you know, and more. There’s a lot of hope and what we’ve done together. So for listeners who are wondering, how do I tell the difference between disinformation and information knowing it’s about to get weirder? Here’s a big clue. If it’s hateful, if it’s mean If it’s harmful, if it’s not supporting kids, parents, teachers, caregivers, then double triple-check the source. And when we’re talking about this, we’re not just talking about MAGA Republicans, we are in a level 23 out of 10 levels situation here with the disinformation that’s been reported to the US Senate Intelligence Committee that we’re talking about foreign nations like China and Russia, just simply trying to dismantle and destabilize our democracy through disinformation pushes. So there’s a lot of research going right now on the side of Europe, about what will make us you know, go and hate is twice as sticky as love in our minds in terms of what we remember. So again, just to all the listeners, I just encourage and hope that when you see hate come across your you know, social media, or your TV and the ads, know that there’s a lot of micro-targeting in anything that tasteful triple check the source, it’s probably disinformation,

Selley Looby 15:55
I love it. And one shout out as I’m wearing my Love Never Gives Up t-shirt today. But I think you’re absolutely right. And I think for people, you know, we kind of can see it in a different lens, because we’re primed to kind of pick up on the nuances and the language that people use. And being a, you know, money person. I always like to see, well, who’s funding this. And then oftentimes, when you go down that money trail, it becomes pretty obvious and also pretty scary, right? Like, the level of tentacles that are out there.

Bruce Lesley 16:24
That’s so true.

Selley Looby 16:29
Coming up after the break, we’ll talk to Kristin more about the money and what’s keeping families from getting more of it, stick around.

Leila Nimatallah 16:39
Making the world a better place for all children can seem like an impossibly huge task. Some of you may be thinking, I’m just one person, what could I possibly do to make a difference? I’m Leilani Matala, Vice President of advocacy and mobilization at First Focus on Children. And I’m inviting you to join us and become one of our volunteer advocates, whom we call our ambassadors for children. Ambassadors are our most active child advocates who raise critical issues with the US Congress, and with the administration related to child policy and funding decisions, both for kids in the US and worldwide. But don’t take my word for it. We asked one of our ambassadors to share her experience. I

Katie Landa 17:30
am Katie Landa, I live in New York City. I currently work as a researcher for an institute called the Child and Family Research Center at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign. I joined the ambassador program because it’s important to me to participate in working towards public policies that support children and their families. And I would encourage you to become an ambassador if you would like to become a part of a very supportive and warm network of people that values teaching and learning and activism towards creating a more just and caring country. Thank you.

Leila Nimatallah 18:21
So please join us won’t you check out campaign for backslash ambassadors, on how to become a First Focus on Children ambassador and to link up with our fabulous community of committed child advocates.

Selley Looby 18:45
First, focus on children is a bipartisan advocacy organization dedicated to making children and families the priority in federal policy and budget decisions,

Bruce Lesley 18:54
whose focus on children moves beyond individual issues to serve a more important role child advocacy. We educate lawmakers in the American public about the issues facing children

Selley Looby 19:05
to learn more about our work and ways that you can become an ambassador go to First

Bruce Lesley 19:10
Coming up on set to play the solid you and I are going to chat about the baby and child penalties in the Child Tax Credit.

Kristin, I just wanted to ask you one thing that’s going on right now is we have a child tax credit bill sitting in the United States Senate and it’s languishing passed the House overwhelmingly. The circumstances surrounding low income families in childbirth are so numerous and challenging. I complications during pregnancy, the need for bedrest postpartum issues, and then there’s inadequate childcare and family medical leave policies that make things so much harder. So why are we punishing families instead of supporting them?

Kristin Rowe-Finkbender 19:51
I love the child tax credit the economy loves the Child Tax Credit businesses love the child tax credit. And parents of course love the child Tax Credit. Poll after poll also shows that family economic security policies like the Child Tax Credit, like paid family medical leave, like affordable child care, like fair pay for child care workers like elder and disability care, are supported by Democrats, Republicans, independents, Libertarians and everybody across the political spectrum by a wide margin. Even 76% of Trump voters support paid family medical leave. So in answer your question of what’s happening, we have a situation where two things are happening. One, the Republican leadership in Washington DC inside the beltway is completely out of step with their own Republican constituents at home. And that’s why we’re seeing states pass these policies first in bipartisan ways. But two, we’re also seeing a complete disregard for what builds our economy. It is ridiculous to me that 72% of our GDP is based on consumer spending, that the majority of consumer spending decisions are made by women and moms over 80%. We feel the economy, when we don’t have money to spend when we are underpaid when we don’t have the child tax credit, when we have paid discrimination, when we’re pushed out of the labor force, literally, we all lose out. So it’s not even about the child or the individual family, it’s really about all of us. And research shows that when any one of us are doing better, we all do better. So it’s in all of our best interest for every child to be able to thrive. And the child tax credit is one of those policies, that’s absolutely proven to be able to do that. We have the receipts. During the pandemic, we had a temporary expansion of the child tax credit to be a monthly payment of about 360 per child per month. And during that time period, we saw people be able to better afford food on the table, better afford a roof over their heads, better afford childcare better afford stability. And you know what we also saw, we saw the labor force participation of people who are primary caretakers go up, because most people need the wages of parents to make ends meet. And we saw a 40% decrease in childhood poverty, the largest single year drop in child poverty in the history of our nation, which by the way, isn’t only about poverty, it’s about economic prosperity, because the inverse of child poverty is economic prosperity, because remember, we are the engine of our economy. Yep. So I love the child tax credit. And we helped push the expansion which isn’t enough. It’s not back to where we need to be through the house, along with you and many other organizations. And as you said, it’s languishing in the Senate right now. So everybody call your senator and tell them vote the Child Tax Credit out of the Senate with no amendments, please. And thank you, no

Bruce Lesley 22:50
amendments is right. So I’m gonna take us a different direction for a second and give you a shout-out, I really felt like MomsRising was such a great partner, but also even as an organizational mentor to us. And so one of the things you guys really taught us was, you know, how to develop lists, really appreciate all that, you know, technical assistance and stuff. But one of the cultural things that we’ve embraced at First Focus on Children, which comes from you guys, is I love that you guys have this whole thing where you celebrate wins. And one of the things we do in this, you know, in our community is, we work on something and it passes and we move on to the next thing, and you really do need to celebrate it and really let people know what happened. But also you celebrate losses, like and I’m probably even saying that wrong, the way you guys look at it, but I love that you guys embrace, you know, try new things. And if it doesn’t work, it’s okay. You tried it, and then let’s move on, you celebrate it in the way of let’s learn what did or did not work there. So anyway, I’d love for you to talk about even the culture that you guys have there, which I think is really interesting. And like I said, it’s something that we really have taken from you. Oh,

Kristin Rowe-Finkbender 24:03
thank you. Well, we learn a lot from you. And we really, really, really appreciate your partnership and your leadership in so many ways. And the fact that 30 million extra people have healthcare, because of the Affordable Care Act is in no small part due to your direct work. So thank you, as well as the consumer protections, which I could be so excited about and talk about for five hours. Thank you to you for your leadership. In terms of trying things, one of the things that we really try to remember is that if this was easy, if solving these problems from a political perspective was easy. We wouldn’t be in this situation because we know the policies that we need for a solution. States have tried them. They’ve turned out great. We’ve had the policies as we just noted temporarily in some places, they turned out great. The rest of the planet has these policies. They’ve turned out great. We kind of know what the unintended negative consequences could be from, you know, the policies that were put hosing every day. So it’s not about the policies, right? It’s about making sure that we’re trying lots of different tactics to be heard. Because as we just talked about a second ago, you know, the constituents, Democrats, Republicans, independents, Libertarian, all support the policies that we work on every day at home, we have a problem with the leadership in Washington, DC, the Republican leadership to be specific, who are standing in the way of these policies moving forward. So you got to try a lot of things. Because if it was easy, it wouldn’t work. So we like to try a lot of things for a couple of reasons. One, parents are busy, right? When you have a new baby, many people don’t realize the catastrophe that it is to have a baby in America until you have a baby in America. And then you’re like, wait a minute, I have no paid family medical leave, wait a minute, if I was gonna save for child care, like I was gonna save for college, I would have to start saving when I myself was seven years old, you know, wait a minute, what the heck is going on here? You know, and it’s that moment, they’re also juggling learning about a new baby, probably juggling work, you know, juggling all this. So you’re busy. So at MomsRising, we like to have an aggressively welcoming rainbow of partnership with our members offer lots of different ways that our members can choose to be heard because they’re busy. So everything from 30 seconds to like physically going places. At the same time, we know that it’s going to take lots of different avenues and pressure points of being heard, because our media environment is just chaotic. It’s not like we have three television shows. We’ve got a bazillion, you know, internet, podcasts, you know, everything happening. So to break through, you need to be breaking through on multiple channels. And we know that as we do this, again, if it was easy, it would have happened already. So a lot of what we’re doing is not going to work. So we try to really work quickly and testing out like okay, are people interested in doing this? Are we heard in this way? And then when it doesn’t work we call a joyful funeral? Yeah, we say okay, let us have a joyful funeral on this tactic. Either nobody liked it, or nobody heard us. You know, restart with our creativity we just had for the CTC, child care, and WIC a couple of weeks ago, we had people dressed up as big hearts outside of the Senate office buildings. And as the senators and their staff were going in and out, we delivered her candy, with the policies written on the candy, and with storybooks of our members that also started up with the policy parties that were seeking. And we were able to talk to 15 senators themselves in like an hour, with moms outside the doors, kind of just like, hey, here we are. At the same time, we also hand-delivered to every member of Congress, the storybook and policy priorities. And then we also were going on social and other, you know, ways of communicating. And we had chalk drawings, a little cross Washington DC about the policy party. So that’s an example of lots of things happening at the same time, and trying to keep it fun. Because one of the things that, you know, we’re doing, we have over a million members, with members in every state in the nation, to stay engaged to stay empowered to stay in partnership, it has to be fun, it’s impossible. And it’s bad for your health or personal health to have it be, you know, a heavy negative everyday working in these areas. So we also try to do fun things. That’s great,

Selley Looby 28:19
Kristin, I already know you’re gonna have an amazing answer to this question. But you know, we ask all our listeners, you know, we’re developing a playlist, our Speaking Of Kids playlist. And so, you know, we’re, when things get hard, and when you feel a little discouraged, what’s your go to song or album?

Kristin Rowe-Finkbender 28:37
I actually don’t have a great answer. Because I am the most eclectic music listener.

Katie Landa 28:43
It’s okay, often

Kristin Rowe-Finkbender 28:46
the apple, what are the top things that are people are listening to and just listen to them straight through. Because sometimes I think what I need to know in my soul is that there’s creativity, newness, hope, change on the horizon. And one of the most beautiful things about music is there’s creativity, hope and change. And so I really like hearing the new, I really like hearing what’s happening. And so I guess my go to is to go to the Apple Music top right now, and then just dance around the house. I won’t lie, I actually do dance.

Selley Looby 29:20
With three kids, we have dance parties, like pretty much every night. And they’re awesome. I don’t get to control the playlist, but one of my kids is playing DJ. So I love that. Kristin, again. Thank you so much for your time.

Bruce Lesley 29:34
Oh my gosh, thanks so much. Thank you. Thank you, and thanks for your partnership over the years really, I think more than almost any other partner we we really value our relationship with MomsRising and have learned so many lessons from you and and love your leadership on these topics for moms and kids. So thank you. Well,

Kristin Rowe-Finkbender 29:51
thank you. We love your leadership and we love your partnerships. And none of us could do it without the other of us so we so appreciate all you’re doing the left every child, every family in the nation, thank you so much.

Selley Looby 30:09
So on our state of play today, we’re going to talk about our good old friend, the child tax credit, but really hone in on this unique window of time when a mother is pregnant when the baby first arrives, and that first little bit of time when families are just readjusting. So, you know, Bruce, to your point, and we talk about this, in some of our more recent reports, this triple whammy that families suffer between losing income around the birth of a child. And naturally when you have a new child, the increase of costs that come associated with that. And then now in this case, you know, really the reduction in their child tax credit,

Bruce Lesley 30:52
the debate around the child tax credit has been really frustrating, because what happens is, when you have a child, as you said, Selley, like your income drops, you know, by definition parents go is, as we both know, only too well, your income drops, because you might have to go on bed rest, or you’re out of the workforce when you’re having the baby. And then sometimes there’s complications having to do with the birth of the child for either the mom, the baby, or babies, or both. And so consequently, what doesn’t make sense is the way the child tax credit works, is that because people have tied the child tax credit to income, and this whole deservingness, and work requirements that people impose babies and moms get a reduction in their child tax credit, for the very reason that they had a baby. And that makes just makes no sense whatsoever. I think nobody would believe that good public policy penalizes people for having a child this is the moment in time when parents have more needs, not fewer. And yet the Child Tax Credit imposes a penalty.

Selley Looby 32:01
First, in your opinion, where do you think the disconnect happens? Is it just in the realities of people on the Hill and policymakers making these decisions just being so far removed from these issues? And like the realities of what families across the country are going through? Because everything we outlined is pretty logical, right? Like I think a reasonable rational person should be able to understand these nuances and this unique window in time and address them. Yeah,

Bruce Lesley 32:33
I think it’s the politicians sometimes think in generalities. And so there’s this whole thing. And you know, it’s very prevalent in our country, which is, sort of we impose deservingness standards on people in terms of whether they’re deserving to get help support from the government or not. And so people are driven by this idea of a work requirement. And the thing is, is in lots of cases, this actually makes little sense, such as in the case of having a baby. And then another example, senators, Thom Tillis, who’s a senator from North Carolina and Marco Rubio, who is a senator from Florida, recently wrote op-eds, talking about this and saying, you know, we need to keep incentivizing work. And an irony to me about that, too, is the, you know, two states that are most hardest hit by hurricanes every year would be the states of North Carolina and Florida. And so they’re pushing and policy would penalize families who have kids with a reduction in the Child Tax Credit, because their house got blown away, their job got blown away, or whatever, from a hurricane, at the time when people need help the most. They’re supporting a policy that actually cuts support and assistance. And it just makes no sense. We know that the costs of raising a child in this country are estimated to be about a quarter of a million dollars. And so the idea that we would, you know, really kick people while they’re down is just doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. But I think it’s this, you know, this issue of that. They’re thinking in generalities, rather than, you know, what really do parents and kids need?

Selley Looby 34:16
No, absolutely. And I think for us in the work that we’re building out with our Ambassadors Program, is really trying to almost like help bridge that gap, right, like having people from across the country, reach out to their members, or you don’t really even understand these issues, just to kind of raise awareness of these issues, because I do think that families experiencing this does want policy that makes sense and addresses their needs. What do you think people can do to bridge this gap in communication and understanding for listeners and ambassadors across the country?

Bruce Lesley 34:54
Yeah, I think the first thing in my mind is that people really do need to center kids in the car. conversation, I think people do not impose deservingness standards on children in the same way that they do other populations. And the fact is, this is called the child tax credit. It should be about the kids and what they need. Babies should not be disproportionately pushed into poverty by the child tax credit and families with kids do not need to be penalized because they suffered from a natural disaster. You know, whether it’s an earthquake, a wildfire, like the wildfires are swept across the panhandle of Texas recently or hurricanes, just makes no sense. And there’s other scenarios, right? What if you were in a car accident, and you’ve been hospitalized, and we’re doing rehab for many years, for many months, I mean, you would then suffer from a loss of income, and that your child tax credit would be cut, where you know, right when you need help the most. So I think that if people really think about it in terms of like, real family’s real needs, and the real needs of children, then we can move forward on this debate rather than what we’re stuck in. And I’m really struck by something that Kristin said in our conversation with her and I wrote it down. And I thought it was really hit home when she said, when we don’t have the child tax credit, when we have pay discrimination, when we’re pushed out of the workforce, literally, we all lose out. So it’s not even about the child or the individual family. It’s really about all of us. And research shows that when any of us are doing better, all the stupider so it’s in our best interest for every child to be able to thrive. And so I really liked that she, you know, focus on the kids and families, but then really says, it really is a societal issue, you know, we really should be supporting the well being and best interests of children and, you know, not imposing punitive harm to people when they’re down. Yeah,

Selley Looby 36:46
absolutely. I think that concept of, you know, when you lift up the most marginalized, and families and communities that need it the most by default, everybody does better. Right? Yeah. But I think that mentality doesn’t always translate to policymakers that, you know, especially in this environment, when things are just so polarized.

Bruce Lesley 37:06
Yeah. So I think the biggest thing that people can do is, you know, they really should call their US senators and their member of Congress and tell them about their needs and the needs of their children. And so why the child tax credit is important, and why they need child care and improve child care system and funding for their public schools, etc, etc, right. Like, that’s, there’s just a disconnect that people really need, we really need to educate policymakers. When right now, there’s a debate around this bill, HR 7024. And that bill would improve the child tax credit and get rid of these penalties that we impose on families for having babies and babies themselves. And penalties we impose on children in you know, bigger households, we actually cut funding for families in bigger households. So children in with multiple siblings actually get less money per kid, then, you know, a single kid, for example. So, those things could be fixed in legislation since even before the US Senate. So it’d be really, you know, people are worried about that people should call their senators and ask them to support HR seven zero 24 Because that legislation would at least alleviate some of the penalties that are currently being imposed by public policy.

This is Speaking Of Kids. Thanks for listening. I’m Bruce Lesley

Selley Looby 38:34
and I’m Messellech Looby. Special Thanks to our guest, Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner.

Bruce Lesley 38:39
Speaking Of Kids as a podcast my First Focus on Children. Elizabeth Windom

Selley Looby 38:43
is the supervising producer and Julia Windom is the Associate Producer

Bruce Lesley 38:47
Leila Nimatallah is the advocacy and mobilizing producer and the senior producer is Jay Woodward.

Selley Looby 38:53
Our theme music is Don’t Look Twice by Sam Barsh. For more information

Bruce Lesley 38:56
about this week’s episode go to You can find all of our links in our show notes.

Selley Looby 39:02
If you have any thoughts, questions, or interest in becoming a First Focus on Children Ambassador email us at Speaking Of Kids at

Bruce Lesley 39:11
and please follow rate and review on Apple podcasts Spotify or YouTube.

Selley Looby 39:16
Speaking Of Kids is produced by Wynn Haven Productions and Bluejay Atlantic