Every year, First Focus on Children and others within the children’s community recognize the second full week of June as Children’s Week. For child advocates, every week is Children’s Week, and every issue is a children’s issue. 

But designating an annual Children’s Week allows advocates and others to coordinate efforts to center attention on children, push for policies that work in their best interest, and above all, celebrate kids. We do this through events, media, briefings, legislative activity, and partnering with other organizations and elected officials. Children’s Week is truly a community event. 

Children’s Week 2024 was packed with a series of activities. Here is a quick recap of some of the highlights: 

Members of Congress

Members of Congress participated in Children’s Week with various actions. We thank all who participated, as well as our Champions for Children, who work year-round to ensure that children are not an afterthought in federal policy. 

This week:

Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-CA) recognized Children’s Week with H. Res. 520. This bipartisan resolution to mark the second week of June as Children’s Week is supported by Reps. Michael Lawler, Betty McCollum, Julia Brownley, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Morgan McGarvey, Katie Porter, Lucy McBath, Daniel Kildee, Raul Grijalva, and Brian Fitzpatrick. In part, the resolution reads: 

“Whereas children face numerous challenges and obstacles, including health, education, and safety, that impact their lives and their futures both domestically and internationally;

Whereas ensuring the well-being of all children is a responsibility shared by families, communities, governments, and individuals;”

Reps. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Greg Landsman (D-OH) issued 1-minute speeches on the House floor in recognition of Children’s Week. Rep. Khanna used the opportunity to uplift the important work his office is leading to reform the troubled teen industry and urge a vote on H.R. 2955 Stop Institutional Child Abuse Act. Rep. Landsman echoed First Focus on Children’s  call that every week should be Children’s Week, and Congress must continue to advocate for kids, such as by reinstating the provisions of the Child Tax Credit that ensured the children most in need benefited. Thank you, Congressmen! 

Reps. Morgan McGarvey (D-KY) and Barbara Lee (D-CA) led a  letter to Director Young and the Office of Management and Budget urging creation of a Cross Agency Priority (CAP) for children. A CAP would coordinate policies, data, and other collaborative action across federal agencies to address child well-being. 

This letter was signed by Reps. Morgan McGarvey, Barbara Lee, Alma Adams, Suzanne Bonamici, Jamaal Bowman, Julia Brownley, Tony Cárdenas, Judy Chu, Danny Davis, Mark DeSaulnier, Dwight Evans, Sylvia Garcia, Jimmy Gomez, Raúl Grijalva, Jonathan Jackson, Sheila Jackson Lee, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Zoe Lofgren, Seth Magainer, Betty McCollum, Jim McGovern, Wiley Nickel, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Katie Porter, Delia Ramirez, Rashida Tlaib, and Bonnie Watson Coleman, and endorsed by over 40 groups in the children’s community. 

This week also marked the Father’s Day Week of Action hosted by the Dads Caucus and Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA). On Thursday, Rep. Gomez was joined by Chasten Buttigieg, First Focus on Children’s president Bruce Lesley, and other experts in the field for a roundtable discussion on paid family leave in the United States. 

From left to right: Gary Barker, President, Equimundo; Chasten Buttigieg, Teacher, father, advocate and author; Laura Modi, Co-Founder and CEO, Bobbie; Dr. Craig Garfield, Founder and Director, Family and Child Health Innovations Program; Rep. Jimmy Gomez, Founder and Chair, Congressional Dads Caucus; Jocelyn Frye, President, National Partnership for Women & Families; Heidi Murkoff, Author; Bruce Lesley, President, First Focus on Children

Congresswomen Kim Schrier (D-WA) and Julia Letlow (R-LA) took action during Children’s Week and introduced the Newborn Essentials Support Toolkit (NEST) Act. This legislation would establish a pilot program at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to distribute newborn supply kits made up of essential goods critical to new mothers and their infants. Here is what First Focus on Children’s president, Bruce Lesley, had to say about the legislation:  

“The Newborn Essentials Support Toolkit Act (NEST Act) offers an incredible opportunity to fight maternal and infant mortality in real time in the communities most affected. The bill, introduced today by Reps. Julia Letlow (R-LA) and Kim Schrier (D-WA), will provide newborn supply kits to parents that will include diapers, wipes, postpartum and breastfeeding supplies, blood pressure monitors, and information that every new parent needs. Reps. Schrier and Letlow have truly captured the spirit of Children’s Week with this bipartisan, innovative way to address our country’s shameful rate of maternal and infant mortality, which both outstrip the rates in other high-income countries. No mom or baby in the richest country on earth should die from a lack of care, supplies, or information.” 

Two child-related Senate hearings also occurred during Children’s Week. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing titled “Combatting the Youth Vaping Epidemic by Enhancing Enforcement Against Illegal E-Cigarettes.” The hearing underscored the alarming level of youth e-cigarette use and urged the Food and Drug Administration  and Department of Justice to stop the sale of unauthorized e-cigarette products in order to protect children from nicotine addiction. The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing titled “Youth Residential Treatment Facilities: Examining Failures and Evaluating Solutions.” The hearing shared examples of sexual, physical and verbal abuse, improper restraint and seclusion involving young children, unsafe and unsanitary conditions, and even a total lack of provision of behavioral health care found in a recent report released by the committee. It also stressed how many of these facilities perpetuating harm to children receive federal dollars from Medicaid and the child welfare system. 

The week began with a webinar on the Child Tax Credit hosted by the Center for the Study of Social Policy, Children’s Defense Fund, First Focus on Children, and the Automatic Benefit for Children coalition. This conversation featured parents from across the country talking about the impact of the Child Tax Credit for their families. 

With important tax negotiations coming up in 2025, it is essential we start listening to parents and families now about what changes they’d like to see in the tax code. As we experienced with the dramatic reduction of childhood poverty caused by the temporarily expanded Child Tax Credit policy in the American Rescue Plan, the CTC has the ability to dramatically impact child well-being and create a more equitable tax code. 

Later that day, our partners at SchoolHouse Connection hosted an important briefing on student homelessness. This briefing featured seven students from the organization’s  scholarship program to discuss the supports and barriers students felt during their time in high school and now as they begin their college careers. Many of the speakers shared that a huge barrier was simply knowing if their school/county had a McKinney-Vento liaison, who that person was, and how to begin receiving supports. The speakers also highlighted the desire for increased mental health services in schools, as well as the positive impact extracurriculars had on their time in high school, especially when having to transfer to a new school. 

As students progress to college, shared concerns included difficulties in applying for and maintaining FAFSA funding, and the need to continually retell their personal experiences in order to receive waivers, scholarships, or other sources of funding for tuition. Another large barrier was lodging during school breaks and the costs associated with temporary housing while university dorms are closed. 

On Tuesday, the Thrive Coalition hosted an event on Positive Parenting in the U.S. and globally. This event featured speakers from the U.S. Agency for International Development  and gave examples of effective programs that engage fathers in responsive caregiving to promote healthy early childhood development for children. Through the case studies shown, refraining from harsh punishment and increasing play time with the youngest children not only promoted their brain development  but also provided  additional benefits such as lowering intimate partner  violence in the home, building stronger relationships between parents and children  and promoting greater educational attainment for all kids in the family– including those who were not originally part of the program.  

Next, First Focus on Children and Pure Earth hosted a virtual briefing on the various sources of lead exposure and the dangers lead presents for child health and development. While much progress has been made recently to address lead pipes in our domestic infrastructure, this conversation stressed that there are many other sources, and in order to fully address this issue, our response efforts must be global. This conversation also featured representatives from Washington state, who shared their recent experience passing policy to limit lead levels in cookware. This case study emphasized the importance of testing childhood lead levels in order to identify a problem, as well as the ability of all levels of government to take action on this issue. 

Key Facts: 

  • Brain Development
    • The average child in LMIC loses 6 IQ points due to lead exposure
    • Lead impacts child brain development and can harm the parts of the brain used for learning and memory, as well as decision making and mood control
  • Child and Maternal Health
    • During pregnancy, lead can be passed from a mother’s bones to the baby
    • Lead in pregnancy can lead to premature birth and/or low birth weights
  • Globally, deaths from lead exposure surpass deaths caused by malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis, yet our international funding for lead is just $15 million compared to malaria ($2.4 Billion), tuberculosis ($2 Billion), and HIV/AIDs ($9.9 Billion). 

On Thursday, March for Our Lives, Color of Change, Movement for Black Lives, and the Futures Institute hosted a briefing on community violence intervention and alternate crisis responses. This conversation was a part of the Community Safety Working Group’s Summer Safety Series of convenings aimed at elevating the response efforts and solutions to public safety from communities. 

Key Takeaways from the briefing: 

  • Increasing youth employment, such as summer programming, has been found to reduce violent crime by up to 43%. 
  • Youth-focused sports and therapy programming can reduce the likelihood of future arrests for a violent crime by 50%
  • Programs to support student social and emotional well-being have been found to reduce total arrests as much as 35%, violent crimes by 50%, and for program youth in juvenile detention facilities, recidivism by 21%. 

Bruce Lesley and Dr. Annie Andrews co-authored an opinion piece titled Who Will Be the Losers of the 2024 Elections? Hint: Not the Candidates that highlights the need for candidates to include children in their platforms and along the campaign trail. Here is an excerpt from the piece: 

Lawmakers are quick to kiss babies, to invoke platitudes — “Children are our future.” But inevitably, there is a disconnect between the positive, superficial messaging about children and the measures taken to prioritize their well-being.

Candidates may talk about the importance of protecting our children, but when it comes to centering children in actual policy decisions on education, economic security, climate, gun violence, healthcare and the prospects of the next generation, all but a few fall woefully short.

In the coming elections, every candidate in every race at every level must abandon empty rhetoric and embrace a children’s agenda that puts kids at the center of their campaigns. Prioritizing children is not only good for kids; it’s good for all of us.

Rep. Gomez joined the Speaking of Kids podcast to discuss how moms have been the “default parent” and the importance of fathers stepping up for kids both at home and in Congress.