In this episode, our hosts Bruce Lesley and Messellech “Selley” Looby chat with Representative Rosa DeLauro, a top champion for children in Congress and the chair of the babies caucus. Rep. DeLauro, who is the ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee, has spent decades in Congress and consistently advocated for kids to be a priority in the federal budget. She has been a Champion for Children every year since we began publishing our legislative scorecard. Rep. DeLauro discusses the impact of the Child Tax Credit on child poverty, and says it is on the top of her agenda, along with early childhood education and the Head Start program. Rep. DeLauro tells our hosts that her main concern isn’t the opposition to policies that help children, but the indifference that many policymakers feel. 

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Selley Looby 0:03
Let’s talk about something that’s just completely absurd. And it’s this Groundhog Day kind of cycle that we see play out over and over again, in the US, there are things that we want government to focus on. And it’s not these culture wars that we see bubbling up.

Bruce Lesley 0:21
Truly the things that really parents are concerned about is, you know, their kids, the economy, crime and public safety, public education in schools, health care, taxes, income policies, and rather than those things being debated this, this whole other conversation that politicians keep having exactly,

Selley Looby 0:40
you know, everyday Americans day in day out, we’re not focused on book bans, or bathrooms or trans athletes, you know, these these culture wars that are getting a lot of oxygen

Bruce Lesley 0:51
at every level of government, there’s these huge wars over those kinds of cultural war issues that are playing out because politicians are stoking fear and division. But then there’s this other set of people who actually really are focused on the real agenda that we care about, if only there was more of that than these cultural war fights.

Selley Looby 1:12
Right? Because I think what happens is, then you kind of think you care, because we’re being told we care, but we don’t really don’t care, because it doesn’t impact us, typically, day in and day out. It’s exhausting.

Bruce Lesley 1:23
Yeah, very much. So.

From First Focus on Children, this is Speaking of Kids, I’m Bruce Lesley.

Selley Looby 1:34
And I’m a Messellech Looby, Speaking of Kids is a podcast that puts kids at the center of public policy.

Bruce Lesley 1:43
So as we were discussing, parents do not want a culture wars agenda, they want support and help and making their lives and their children’s lives a little bit easier. Massage, we were talking earlier today about this national parents union survey in February. And it really got at some of these issues of what is it that parents really want? So what were some of those findings?

Selley Looby 2:06
You’re absolutely right, Bruce, I mean, I think, in this poll, you know, you see across the board, really on all issues that really matter to children and families, ranging from expanding the child tax credit, you know, 87 to 980 7% of people surveyed said, you know, they really do strongly support the expansion of the child tax credit, you know, when you go into expanding subsidies to reduce pay for health insurance, you know, K through 12, education, I mean, really, these margins, 85% of those interviewed really said that they strongly support these things, you know, even paid parental leave programs to provide up to 12 weeks of paid family leave for families of new parents of new babies. I mean, 84% of those surveyed said, they strongly support initiatives such like these, but again, like we highlighted, you know, we just get caught up in these isolated polarizing culture wars.

Bruce Lesley 3:02
So that’s correct. Parents want a completely different agenda. And it’s a very comprehensive agenda, as you just walked through. And it’s interesting and tough sometimes for child advocates, because, or other groups like AARP, I think when you ask people like, what are the big issues for seniors, people would immediately say, Social Security and Medicare, I think it’s more complicated for kids, because, um, children have a more holistic agenda of needs that you really outlined, and are very apparent in this national parents poll that we discussed.

Selley Looby 3:38
Absolutely. And I mean, you know, I think we can both agree that some of the things that have bubbled up as it relates to the culture wars, there is a time and place for them and a conversation that should take place. But really, when you think about the lives, the daily lives of families and parents across the country, it’s really, you know, this intersectionality of issues impacting kids that are really important, right? Like, you can’t look at things in siloed buckets as it relates to kids like you can, or at least there’s not some clear issues that really are centered for children, right. Like there are with seniors, the issues impacting children really are spread out.

Bruce Lesley 4:20
Absolutely. And so Linda Lake did talk to us about that in an earlier podcast, I think the second episode about that sort of our big challenge, but also what she talked about, is that kids, kind of our superpower is that just like seniors and veterans, when people think about who’s deserving and society to get supports, kids are right up there with seniors and veterans, people really do not impose a deservingness standard upon children in think that they don’t they don’t deserve support. People sort of very inherently think, Oh, yes, we should be helping our kids. And unfortunately, as we’ve also discussed is, that is not what politicians As often do, they’re often running around playing in these cultural war debates, rather than what we need them focused on, which is the real issues that are important to children and families.

Selley Looby 5:14
And that’s why I am just so excited that we have Rosa DeLauro. Today, you know, she has been a career long champion for children and just gets these issues as a parent herself. And now a grandparent, you know, she understands the comprehensive needs of children and families.

Bruce Lesley 5:32
Yes, she basically tackles every issue of importance to kids. And so we’re really excited to have her on today. And Congresswoman DeLauro is Connecticut’s third congressional district representative. She serves as the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, and she’s the chair of the babies caucus. She has been a champion for children every single year since our inception of that legislative scorecard. And we are incredibly grateful to her for her leadership and for her efforts to advocate on behalf of America’s children. And we’re so pleased to have her today. Congresswoman, thank you so much for joining us today. And sure. So while many of your colleagues often treat kids as an afterthought, you have always so championed and put forth, kids as a centerpiece of your work. Why have you done that? Why are you uniquely positioned and willing to make kids a focus of your work and championing their needs and interests? Well,

Rep. Rosa DeLauro 6:31
there’s a couple of reasons why, first of all, I’m delighted to be with you. And thank you, thank you, for the great work that you do and what your focus is. And I was delighted to be able to receive the award from first focus, it means a lot to me, because this is an area as you pointed out, it’s just really the very heart and soul of what I’ve tried to accomplish in my job in the House of Representatives. And so there are two pieces of this one that has so much to do with my own family background. You know, my folks, blue collar working family, struggled financially, all of their lives struggled to make sure that I had the best of an education and used their platform. They didn’t write omnibus legislation in the way that we do in the House of Representatives. But they dealt with issues that focused on our community, on families on kids, and the well being of children, again, whether there was their education, their health care, their ability to have employment. You know, my folks were always there. And it was about using government to create that opportunity for families and for kids. The other side of this is that, in addition to that, when I had the opportunity, and I managed Senator Christopher DODDS first campaign, and then went to work as his chief of staff. Now, there you are, which the, if you will, the mother lode of legislation affecting children’s lives, children and family issues were central to Senator dad’s work in the Senate. And he would just say, one out of four Americans are under the age of 18. And there was no caucus. He said they don’t vote. They don’t make campaign contributions, but they are our future. So he established the very first children’s caucus in the United States Senate and chaired the Senate after school caucus. So I had the opportunity to work with him on all of these pieces of legislation, the first child care legislation since World War Two, he authored family and medical leave the national Headstart Association named him senator of the decade in 1990, for his work on behalf of kids and families, the legislation was just so robust and fulsome Headstart, childcare, preschool programs, reduce childhood hunger, lift families out of poverty, provide services for premature infants and children with autism, and protect children from neglect and abuse. So that was his mission, it became part of my mission, if you will, the areas that I had the opportunity to work with him on. So I do credit him. And it was the children’s caucus, by the way, was a bipartisan effort with Senator Arlen Specter to time so that these were issues that Democrats Republicans could engage in and tried to do something about. And so he left a legacy and actually left me with a legacy of working on issues that really made a profound difference in the lives of families and children. And so that has become central to what I do in the House of Representatives today.

Selley Looby 9:45
Thank you so much. And again, thank you for being here. I actually was born and raised in Connecticut, not in your district where a small town called Plainville

Rosa DeLauro 9:54
a lie. No Plainville short because what I’ve worked for the Senator and when I managed to have his campaign so Got to go all over the state. Yeah.

Selley Looby 10:01
So one area that you have long lead on is the Child Tax Credit. You’ve actually worked on this for as long as first focus has been around. So for over 15 years, can you tell our listeners about that work and how we had the best policy in 2021, that cut child poverty in half, and how we can really work together to get back to that point,

Rosa DeLauro 10:24
this is so critically important to me. I will just make one correction, I started to work on the child tax credit in 2003. So we’re talking 2021 years now. And in 2003, I asked the then chair of the budget committee, John Spratt, if I could introduce the child tax credit in the amendment and keeping in mind, we were in the minority, so we knew we would lose, but he said, of course, you can’t. I did that. And we did lose on a party line vote, but thus began my journey, and trying to move the idea and legislation with regard to a child tax credit, along the way, had people like Charlie wrangle Speaker Pelosi, a Sandy Levin, and more recently, Richie Neal people was worked to make sure that we could effectuate a child tax credit. I will just say that when President Biden came to office, and there was a meeting in the Oval Office, he had with all of the ranking members or chairs of committees and so forth, it was the chairs that we were in the majority of the time. So I chaired the appropriations committee. I did talk about appropriations at that meeting. But I also he and the Vice President, were sitting under the portrait of Franklin Roosevelt. And I looked at the portraits and I said, Mr. President, Franklin Roosevelt lifted 90% of seniors out of poverty, with the stroke of a pen, with Social Security, I said, you have the opportunity, with a stroke of a pen to lift children in the United States, out of poverty, and so that it became a part of the American rescue plan was, you know, just such an unbelievable accomplishment. And I don’t say that in a self serving way, but that we got heard on the child tax credit, and how, what its ability to lift kids out of poverty and keeping in mind, for decades, we’ve wrestled with the issue of how do you address the issue of child poverty in this country, and we found through the child tax credit, the antidote, the answer to that edit simply said, well, it met its intended goals. I don’t know of a lot of federal programs that ever meet their intended goals. But this did overwhelmingly $3,600 to families who had kids under six years old, 3000 for six, and over on a monthly basis of fully refundable, meaning the families who didn’t have any income were also eligible for the credit. And what we saw 4 million kids lifted out of poverty, hunger cut by over a quarter, the IRS successfully set 98% of their payments. And for every dollar invested that tax credit provides $8 in social and economic benefits. So what we’re looking at now is data since that has been pulled, if you will, and we’re looking at the poverty rate increasing from 5.2% to 12.4%. Hunger once again, going up by 25 or 26%. And the people who said that folks wouldn’t go to work, they would buy drugs that they would dog it is just, you know, first of all, it’s so demeaning to people who in their lives work so hard, some of these families work more than one job to make ends meet the data and the results prove them so wrong. You know, people spent that money on childcare, on food on maybe a rent payment or a mortgage payment or school supplies for their kids on health care. And these are not my statistics. They’re Columbia University, a Social Policy Center. In that regard, we saw nearly 140% increase in a single year, millions of kids put back into preventable poverty. Because this program is no longer there that I find unconscionable. I said it was an antidote to child poverty, but an antidote to inflation. We got people today who live paycheck to paycheck, they can’t make ends meet, their wages have not increased, they face rising costs, and then they have fewer dollars every month. And the child tax credit is and I’m gonna say is because we got to continue to fight for the child tax credit, the most effective tool that we have in the face of rising costs. We want families to get ahead. Yeah, we want to get millions Have kids out of poverty, we have to bring back and expand it and monthly Child Tax Credit. As we knew under the American rescue plan, I will make one final comment on that the tax agreement that was decided in the Senate is not the answer. In fact, what it does, it provides millions and billions to corporations, the biggest corporations, many of whom pay no tax at all, and it provides them with retroactive tax credits. And what it does is provide pennies, pennies for our kids. It’s wrong, it’s lopsided, that needs to get fixed, which is one of the reasons why I voted against it. Yeah,

Bruce Lesley 15:43
I just want to say for our listeners to that, I consider your bill on the child tax credit to be the single most important piece of legislation for children, since the enactment of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and that was in 1997. I really firmly believe that in the last quarter century that your legislation is by far the most important and it was awesome that we got it in and 2021 everyone needs to know and everyone should know that that was, you know, because of you. And that, you know, we’re gonna fight with you. To get this back. This is the goal. This is what we need to do. And, and as you said, to me, every aspect of the lives of kids is negatively impacted by child poverty. And so yes, you know, kids, kids brains don’t develop in the same way they early childhood, their education, their health care, their housing, their, you know, their hunger, child abuse, rates, everything, everything is important to kids in it with respect to child poverty, and so lifting them out is just game changing.

Rosa DeLauro 16:47
It is true. I recall years ago, Dr. Pamela Cantor, just so much work with schools, and she did a study in New York, after 911 to find out what the impact of 911 was on children. And what her data showed was that, yes, 911 was an issue. But the issue for kids was grinding poverty, and how we needed to turn this around. And I can’t say it enough. And I thank you for what you said. And I thank you for fighting, that we can fight alongside one another. But we have an answer. How many to these problems? How many of them? Do we have answers to? You know, if we search for the answers, and we search for solutions, and one is right in front of us, this should be the flagship issue. For us as Democrats, it should be the flagship issue for any administration to move forward on. That is what I’m aiming to do to make this the flagship issue that carries us in the next year. Yeah.

Selley Looby 18:02
Coming up after the break, we’ll talk to Representative Rosa DeLauro, about addressing issues that affect children collectively and not in isolation. Think around.

Leila Nimatallah 18:14
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 Leila Nimatallah, 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. My

Amy Jo Hutchison 19:04
name is Amy Jo Hutchison. I’m a born and raised West Virginian who also happens to be an economic justice organizer. And I’m the founder of a grassroots movement here, rattle the windows. What drew me to the ambassador program at First Focus on Children was my lived experience of poverty as a mother to living in one of the poorest states in the nation, advocating for children and poverty is very personal to me. A lot of people see numbers when they look at data and reports. But when I see new findings and reports on child poverty, I see my kids and I see their friends, our neighbors, and the people who I interact with every day. And I trust First Focus on Children. I have personally stepped into spaces that they’ve created for parents like me to be heard. What would I tell someone thinking about becoming an ambassador with First Focus on Children? Well, first of all, very few with any huge shifts in the way our country addresses economic justice. issues have taken place without grassroot involvement. First Focus on Children has created an entry point for people like me to get involved with this ambassador program. It’s an easily accessible way for us to become engaged and formed and to turn our pain into power. I really hope you’ll join them.

Leila Nimatallah 20:17
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.

Selley Looby 20:40
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 20:48
First Focus on Children moves beyond the individual issues to serve a more important role. child advocacy, we educate lawmakers in the American public about the issues facing children.

Selley Looby 20:59
To learn more about our work and ways you can become an ambassador go to first Coming

Bruce Lesley 21:04
up on our state of play, Messellech and I are going to chat with Averi Pakulis. I want our listeners to know that you’re actually this amazing on a whole range of issues for kids. And so I just want to highlight a few of those. You have been a leader for children in this country and their families and moms on issues around child care, family medical leave, obviously, we’ve talked about child poverty, child health, and you also serve as ranking member of the Appropriations Committee and have centered children in your work there. And also you chair the babies Caucus in the House. And so I just wanted people to know and then what I would like to ask you is what are some of your priorities? I know you could go on at length about all of the work you’re doing in the rave kids issues, but like what are some of your priorities in those spaces? And how can our listeners and us support you in that work? Thank

Rosa DeLauro 22:01
you, obviously, I think at this juncture, the child tax credit is the top of my agenda. And I view it as Social Security for kids. That’s where we need to go. But some of the other areas that you mentioned, let me just say as early childhood education, and Headstart This is critical. I view that this should be universal, universal preschool, why shouldn’t every child get the opportunity for success. That’s where we need to try it. We need to try to go the issue of childcare, we watched what happened in the pandemic, you know, women out of jobs, no paid family and medical leave, no parent is going to stay in the workforce if their kid doesn’t have child care, it is really central to our economic success here. You know, and children’s health. What I have found, when I put together the women and families agenda, we were treating the issues of paid family medical leave, pay equity, child care, it’s such as singular issues, they were siloed. The issue is these all come together, they are connected in some fundamental way. And that’s the way we have to approach this kind of an agenda. It’s not one at a time. It’s how we are moving and all of these efforts to create the environment, which allows families to succeed economically. Therefore, they have the opportunity to take care of their kids, and included in that as their kids health, their education, their overall well being to be able to grow up healthy and strong. So that for me is that combining that’s the way I see these issues as one piece. And look, I’m going to continue to look at a national standard on paid family and medical leave equal pay for equal work men and women in the same job deserve, you know, the same pay Headstart, and we were able to get some creases in Headstart and the current appropriations. I’m not going to say it does sound self serving. But I provided when I was Chair of Appropriations, the single biggest increase in childcare that we have seen in decades, $5.6 billion. Again, these all come together. And I would just I’m going to make this comment to you. When people tell me you can’t afford to do these things. Give me a break that this is spending. We have a revenue issue. Let’s go after the millionaires, the billionaires, the corporations who pay no taxes and get that back and revenue so that we can do some of these other things. It is always I hear about spending as it disadvantages children in the United States and always advantages the biggest corporations and the wealthiest individuals,

Selley Looby 25:03
you sum that up beautifully. I mean, you know, it’s the reason why you’re our number one champion, you know, by far. And also, it really does have a deeper appreciation, even for the approach that first focus has, you know, we work on a cross number of issues. And really, what we’ve been touting since we’ve been around is really these issues are not something that you can look at in isolation, they have to be looked at comprehensively, because they all are interconnected. And with that, with the issues that Bruce outlined, that you just spoke about the environment, we’re in the influence of social media today, with respect to all of that, what keeps you up at night, as it relates to these issues? First of all, I

Rosa DeLauro 25:42
love what I do, I believe in this, the institution of the Congress, I believe in what is potential and what its promises, if you go back to our founding fathers, that its potential is it’s great, its strength, it doesn’t do what you want it to do every day, some days, it does quite the opposite. But when you think about its history, of Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, the ability of sons and daughters of working families to be able to get an education, through Pell Grants, and through what we do, in terms of public education, a civil rights, a GI Bill, the way in which the institution has transformed people’s lives. That’s what we need to continue to do for the future. We have a social safety net, that Democrats and Republicans coalesced around. And so there are these are the challenges that our country faces? How do we address them, we need a new social safety net, that includes a child tax credit, paid family and medical leave, equal pay for equal work, childcare that is affordable and accessible. That’s where we need to try to go for the future. And what keeps me awake at night, is the institution being hamstrung by some that don’t allow us to move forward. And the other piece of this is, and I wrote, and the books that I published some years ago, called waging the battle for the vulnerable, the least among us, on the Child Tax Credit portion. For me, it was not the opposition to a child tax credit, or maybe even to some of these other programs. But the difference, the indifference to the plight of these families of these kids, you know, folks will go to a school for a ribbon cutting, they’ll stand by and so forth. But that doesn’t translate into understanding the investment that we need to make, and kids. So that worries me about the continued indifference, but it doesn’t deter anything that you do, or that I do, because we have to keep the issues, front and center. And again, my goal is the last quote, and the books that I wrote, it’s a Robert F. Kennedy quote, it says, I believe that as long as there is plenty, poverty is evil, and government belongs wherever evil needs an adversary. And there are people in distress. So that is, what my goal is, as I continue on here, your words

Bruce Lesley 28:37
are why we’re so incredibly grateful to you for your constant advocacy. And I guess a question I would have for you then related to that is, we desperately need more roasted loros in the House and Senate to work beside you to get these things done. And so for our listeners, and even for us any advice like how can we really move and get rid of this indifference and treating kids as an afterthought by so many in Congress? How can we get more people to prioritize kids and making these investments that are really good for not only them, but for our entire nation or future?

Rosa DeLauro 29:16
I think a lot has to do with what happens on the ground at the grassroots level. You know, we did the first video on the Child Tax Credit, which was, you know, historical, we’re gonna move to the voices of the Child Tax Credit, and that’s kids and parents, etc, which is something that I’m desperate to do, because there are 1000s of stories out there about what happened. But I think that we have to mobilize at the grassroots level. So people are telling their stories, that they take that energy, and they translate that into action, whether it’s political action, but action and that means Getting to the people that represent them. And while it’s great to be in Washington to do this, people need to go and visit their Congress person’s office and talk about these things. They need to do press around it, their stories need to be heard. And that is the kind of the things that I believe we have to foster to galvanize. You know, I think my colleagues now in the house, you know, it’s no longer in difference in the house where there was, I was speaking about it. Charlie wrangled helped me with that issue. Sandy Levin did, the speaker did. But now I think that there is a real understanding, and the Democrats in the House of Representatives of how critically important child tax credit is, but we have got to make it relevant to people to their lives, they have got to understand that this is not just a piece of legislation that’s out there, or a program that’s out there, it has to be shown how relevant it is to their lives to the economic security for their lives and their family’s lives.

Selley Looby 31:07
And so Congresswoman DeLauro, you know, we’ve given you our champion for children’s award for I think, every single year for over a decade. And you know, it’s not lost on us that this is really hard work. And it’s tough, and it comes with lots of frustration at some points. And we like to ask all of our guests, we’ve been building a budding playlist for Speaking of Kids, you know, what is your song, your album that really just lifts your spirits when you’re having a rough day? Okay,

Rosa DeLauro 31:35
well, let me just say a couple of things about that. First of all, my husband and I are great opera lovers, but I won’t regale you with that. I it goes back to my parents. And I’ve said about my parents, they struggled financially, when they went to the opera, they did the standing room only seats. And now, because of their sacrifices for me, and my husband’s family sacrifices for him, we sit in the orchestra, and it really is unbelievable. The other point I would make is, my grandkids have taken over my playlists. And so wherever they are, it’s about Taylor Swift. But for me, I will just say, Proud Mary by Tina Turner. I love it always motivates me to move. And I’ve used that as a campaign song for as long as I can remember, always played on election night in the third district in Connecticut. So that’s it. I love that rolling down that river.

Selley Looby 32:27
And I can appreciate the Taylor Swift, I have a seven year old daughter who has now access to my phone in my playlists, and it’s on heavy rotation.

Bruce Lesley 32:38
Well, Congresswoman, we don’t want to take up any more of your time. But oh my gosh, we really just want to thank you for everything that you do. And, and thank you so much for joining us on Speaking of Kids, and just for being such an amazing partner, to the kid community and First Focus on Children. So look forward to continue working with you. And also just a shout out to your staff that are awesome to work with. They are awesome.

Selley Looby 33:01
They are. Thank you,

Rosa DeLauro 33:03
I say thank you to you so much for being partners. And I never take you know, the wonderful awards is the statement of you know, it’s the end of the line and for past work, but it’s about the future work that we will do together and we really, really our partners in this effort and I know you’ll continue on and you have my word that I will continue on.

Bruce Lesley 33:24
No thank you so much.

Selley Looby 33:31
So on today’s state of play, we have the treat of having a ripple coulis with us. Averi leads our early childhood and public health portfolio at first focus. Welcome, Averi.

Averi Pakulis 33:41
Hey, everybody. Hi, Bruce. Hey, Sally.

Bruce Lesley 33:44
Welcome to the podcast.

Selley Looby 33:45
So Averi, you know today’s guest, Representative Rosa DeLauro is just amazing, right? She’s a true champion. You know, we talked a little bit about Connecticut, you and I are both from Connecticut. She represents the great state. And you know, you’ve had a unique experience of working with her and then also with Senator Dodd, who have been to true champions for children. And we recognize in our space that that’s not always the case. And so, in your experience, what has it been like, you know, to work for members that are real champions and prioritize children and families?

Averi Pakulis 34:19
I love that question. And it was an incredible experience to work for both Rosa and Senator Dodd. After working for the two of them. It seems like there was no way I wasn’t going to focus on kids later in my career, you know, as my career went on. So, you know, I worked with Rosa first I’m, I’m now a constituent of hers in Connecticut, which is thrilling for me to get to vote for her every two years now. And then from her office, I went over to Senator Dodds and they, you know, they have such incredible love and respect for each other and you can just see where their work feeds off of each other the values that they place on the importance of kids and their families and making sure that they are our highest priorities. really just pervaded my whole time working for both of them throughout their staff, no matter what issue their staff was working on, the impact on kids and families was first and foremost, and in all of our minds.

Bruce Lesley 35:10
One thing that, you know, to me that really stood out to and talking to her for the podcast, and also just in all of our dealings with her, is that so much of what she does is so aligned with our work. And so can you tell our listeners a little bit about that, and why it’s so important for children.

Averi Pakulis 35:28
Her list of priorities are so closely aligned with with ours at first focus. And I think of the work that we do as advocates from the outside, just complementing the work that she does as an advocate on the inside of the Capitol. I mean, that is truly what she is, on all of these issues, she always truly represents the needs of kids and their families, she never never negotiates against herself. She never dilutes what the needs are, even if, even if the dollar figure that’s needed is enormous, and maybe not realistic. She’s still going to fight for that, as chair of the Appropriations Committee, and now as ranking member, the appropriations committee. And so I think that’s why Rosa is such an she and her staff are such an incredible partner. And that’s why she’s so effective and invaluable in Congress. She is consistent, and persistent. And those are two words that come to my mind, when I think about her. We need her to be out there saying, hey, this deal that you’re all making, it’s not enough. We need more for kids and families. Because if she’s not out there saying that, then we’re going to end up with less for her kids and their families. And she does that on the child tax credit on childcare, child poverty, pre K, all sorts of early learning programs, Headstart and others. And you know, she’s able to do on the inside what we try to push people to do from the outside and to have her there is just a gift for for all of us in the kids advocacy community.

Bruce Lesley 36:45
Another question I along those lines that I wanted to ask you is as a constituent of hers, how does that play out in New Haven and and the work you see going on in the community? I mean, we always, you know, we always say that money matters and making investments in kids is key and prioritizing kids by policymakers makes a huge difference. And so how do you see that kind of operationalize in Connecticut, I

Averi Pakulis 37:13
see Rosa all over the place in the district. So she’s in DC, working hard, but you would think she’s in two places at once. She’s also here hosting an event with the childcare center, actually, that my daughter went to, because they’re an incredible childcare provider and have been great advocates themselves, she really brings home to the local level, the issues of pay equity, and paid family leave. And she listens to her constituents, when you see her out in the community. She is constantly listening and talking doesn’t turn anyone away ever. And she’s really absorbing the concerns that people bring to her. When I worked for her, we came up with a lot of Bill ideas, because of constituents who came to her and said, Look, I’m having this problem with my health insurance or my child’s my child’s health coverage. And I can’t get the system to work, I think we need to change, and she listens. And that’s how so many of her ideas are formulated. And so I think she’s the same person in DC as she is in Connecticut. She is not taking her own interests into account, she’s listening to her constituents. And, and that is just what you see, no matter what setting she’s in. And

Selley Looby 38:22
he you bring up a really, you know, great point, and especially in the nature of our work and, you know, building ambassadors and really trying to branch out a little bit more and getting everyday Americans from across the country to you know, call email, connect with their elected officials. And you know, you said it several times listening and the role of an elected official to listen to their constituents and to voters. Can you share a little bit about the impact that has in terms of, you know, ways that our ambassadors can get engaged and just the vital role that their voice plays in all this?

Averi Pakulis 39:01
Absolutely. I think the times when I got to leave DC and go back to the district to learn firsthand from constituents about what Headstart program looks like on the ground about what a childcare providers is facing on a day to day basis. Those are the times when I learned the most honestly and and truly start to understand the experiences of people back in the district. And so I think that that is a skill that Rosa really emphasized Senator Dodd really emphasized and many members of Congress really do pay attention to their constituents because they are voters. And they frankly need them to get reelected, but they if they’re truly doing their jobs, they realize they are there because their biggest job is to listen and then to reflect those needs to their colleagues in DC and in Congress. I mean, I think the role that our ambassadors play is absolutely vital. They have more power and more sway than they may realize a constituent is so much more likely to get a meeting with a staff member or a member of Congress than then someone from outside of the district or the state is and with a member of Congress who is doing their job really well, their voice is so valued and prize. I mean, I think, as I said, so many legislative ideas come directly from constituents. And that is something that I think everyone should know, when our office starts getting a lot of calls on the same topic. People in that office start to listen, and then they start to report that up to their boss and realize, oh, something’s going on here that we need to really pay attention to. The role of ambassadors and advocates on the ground in states and congressional districts is absolutely vital to the working of of our government.

Bruce Lesley 40:39
And if we all did that, we would have a lot more Rosa DeLauro is in Congress and it would just be game changing. Thanks so much, Averi, for joining us and giving us your perspective on both you know, working for her but your perspective of being a constituent and, and how this really all makes a big difference for for children across this country. So thank you.

Selley Looby 41:01
Thank you so much, Averi.

Averi Pakulis 41:02
Thank you both so much. That’s a pleasure to be here.

Bruce Lesley 41:11
This is Speaking of Kids. Thanks for listening. I’m Bruce Lesley,

Selley Looby 41:14
and I’m a Messellech Looby special thanks to our guests Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and Averi Pakulis.

Bruce Lesley 41:20
Speaking of Kids as a podcast by First Focus on Children, Elizabeth

Selley Looby 41:24
Windom is the supervising producer and Julia Windham is the Associate Producer.

Bruce Lesley 41:29
Leila Nimatallah is the advocacy and mobilization producer and the senior producer is Jay Woodward.

Selley Looby 41:34
Our theme music is don’t look twice by Sam barsh. For more information

Bruce Lesley 41:38
about this week’s episode go to first You can find all of our links in our show notes.

Selley Looby 41:44
If you have any thoughts, questions or interest in becoming a First Focus on Children ambassador, email us at Speaking of Kids at first

Bruce Lesley 41:53
and please follow rate and review on Apple podcasts Spotify or YouTube.

Selley Looby 41:58
Speaking of Kids is produced by Windhaven productions and blue J Atlantic