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Show Notes

In this episode, our hosts Bruce Lesley and Messellech “Selley” Looby chat with Representative Suzanne Bonamici. Rep. Bonamici, who has represented Oregon’s 1st district in Congress since 2012, has been an avid Champion for children throughout her career and achieved the #1 slot on First Focus Campaign for Children’s 2023 Legislative Scorecard. The Congresswoman discusses her legislative priorities, including passing the Child Tax Credit, advocating for a strong public education system, ending child hunger, supporting youth experiencing homelessness, and protecting food programs such as SNAP and WIC. She talks about her belief that funding the health, well-being, and safety of children is the best investment our society can make, and offers advice for listeners on how to affect change themselves.

Learn more about Rep. Bonamici’s work supporting kids:

Be sure to check out Representative Bonamici’s website and follow her on Instagram and Twitter

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Want to be a voice for kids? Become an Ambassador for Children here. Connect with First Focus Campaign for Children for easy training on how to be a powerful advocate for children. Please consider donating to First Focus on Children to support our work and this podcast here.

Full Transcript

Selley Looby 0:03
All right, Bruce, it’s an election year. You know what that means?

Bruce Lesley 0:07
Oh yeah, buntings and political attack ads. And of course, all the baby kissing selfies

Selley Looby 0:13
oh my gosh, I’d like to see a little bit less baby kissing and photo ops and a little bit more baby voting and, you know, possibly an agenda that prioritizes children and families, that would be nice.

Bruce Lesley 0:26
Oh, yeah, we need people to actually stand up and be for kids rather than just pay lip service to them. And I just don’t think I’m prepared for all the campaign promises coming our way that really failed to address the kids issues. so rare that we encounter people, politicians, etc, that actually put their money where their mouth is?

Selley Looby 0:43
Absolutely. I mean, you know, when you really think about it, finding people who truly live the ethics they claim is pretty rare.

Bruce Lesley 0:50
Yeah, with our political environment, it sometimes feels like a vanishing quality.

Selley Looby 0:55
Well, with that in mind, we do have a real treat for our listeners today.

Bruce Lesley 1:02
From First Focus on Children, this is Speaking of Kids, I’m Bruce Lesley, and

Selley Looby 1:06
I’m Messellech Looby Looby. Speaking of Kids is a podcast that puts kids at the center of public policy.

Okay, Bruce, so we have this child tax credit that’s been in the news off and on for a very long time, and it passed the house. Are we popping bottles of champagne yet?

Bruce Lesley 1:32
Yeah. If only that were the case, pass the House 357-70. And now it’s gone to the Senate where here it is just sitting there languishing right now. Okay,

Selley Looby 1:44
so can you break this down for us? Because this is a bit more complicated than it looks right. We have both the Freedom Caucus and AOC voting against it. There’s a lot of different opinions. Some people think it goes too far. Some people don’t think it goes far enough. How do you think this plays out? What does this mean?

Bruce Lesley 2:05
The positive thing is that by large margins, both parties supported it. So Republicans voted four to one in favor of it, and Democrats voted eight to one in favor of it. On the Democratic side, what the complaints war is, it actually doesn’t do enough, it lifts 400,000 kids out of poverty. And if you go back to the 2021 bill that lifted 3 million kids out of poverty, it’s only a step toward where we really want to head. So their complaints were actually fair. And we share that we actually wish this bill did more. But on the other hand, it does lift 400,000 kids out of poverty, it helps 16 million kids immediately doesn’t lift all of them out of poverty, but it helps low income children. That includes 3 million kids under the age of three. So really trying to target some of the funding toward those most in need. That’s a positive thing now where things get dicey on the other side is some of the objections that were voiced by some of the more conservative far right members. They actually think language in the bill that stabilizes the child tax credit for low income families is somehow bad. And if you actually help stabilize income for poor people, that that somehow might discourage work, and then get again, here, we’re talking about the child tax credit, and everybody’s talking about the adults.

Selley Looby 3:29
So with most bills and pieces of legislation, there’s always things that get thrown out things that get snuck in. Can you share a little bit about those and how that has shaped the conversation and even the foundation and the structure of the current existing CTC bill? And also, you know, what do you think is next?

Bruce Lesley 3:49
Yeah, I think that part of the the reason why it doesn’t do more, is that there’s still this inherent issue that that many espouse about why we need the child tax credit to promote work. And the thing is, is we have a program called the Earned Income Tax Credit. It’s all about that. This bill, the Child Tax Credit really should be about how we are helping children in our country. And one of the things this bill does, it’s really good thing that they got in and really addressed a problem is that for wealthier families in the Child Tax Credit right now, every child in the family gets the child tax credit. So for every family and a family of makes $100,000 a year, say they have a family of three kids, they get $6,000 $2,000 per child for low income families. And this is like kind of crazy. It’s very paradoxical. And you would not think this would be the case. Let’s say a family with $10,000 of income a single mom with three kids, and the first child would get $1,250 So not even the full 2000 And the next two children get zero. So the difference is In the family with $100,000 in income, the Child Tax Credit gives them $6,000. The family with three kids at $10,000 gets $1,250. That is a massive disparity. And the bill before us then says, let’s at least get rid of the child penalty. And so what it is, at the very least as it says, every kid in that low income household then gets the $1,250. So that means that that household, we get $3,750, still not getting the same amount of money as everybody else. But it at least gets rid of one of the inherent unfairness issues in the child tax credit was is that there’s this child penalty for low income families. So the very families that need help for their kids the most are currently penalized. And at least this bill addresses that problem.

Selley Looby 5:51
That was very helpful. That was very helpful. So as many of our listeners have heard, and are likely aware, the child tax credit is one of the many instruments that the federal government uses to support kids and families. And the big news so far and 2024 is that it passed the House, and we are waiting with hopeful anticipation that we can move it forward. But it did pass by the house with a rare bipartisan majority. So what are the other tools and resources out there to take a look at the broader landscape of kid first legislation we are pleased to have with us today Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, from the first congressional district of Oregon,

Bruce Lesley 6:33
you know, in addition to the child tax credit, Congresswoman Bonamici, has just champion an array of issues of importance to kids, including strengthening public education. And in fact, it is one of the reasons she got involved in public service in Congress. She’s leader, the Education Workforce Committee, and ranking member of the Early Childhood Elementary and Secondary Education subcommittee. And in that role, she is really, again and again played a leadership role for us in Congress. In fact, in our champions for children report in our legislative scorecard in the 2023. Legislative session in Congress, she was ranked as our number one champion for children. We’re excited to have on speaking of kids, Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, Welcome to Speaking of kids.

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici 7:25
Well, thank you. And thank you so much for having me on the podcast.

Bruce Lesley 7:29
So for listeners, we are recording this interview on the day after a vote on the tax package and the house that included and the expansion of the Child Tax Credit Cards home. And I wanted to get your perspective on what this will mean for the families with children in Oregon and across the nation.

Speaker 1 7:47
I’m excited and was very proud to be able to support an expansion of the Child Tax Credit we saw from the work that we had done in the past expanding the Child Tax Credit, that it really significantly cut child poverty across the country, unfortunately, that had expired. And so yesterday, we were able to pass a bill here in the house, I would have preferred that it went farther. But I tell you, this is going to make a difference to 1000s of Children and Families, as you said, in Oregon and across the country. And it is such a good investment in our children. So yes, we we got that through the house. And I’m excited about that. And we’ll keep working on policies that support our children and families. ,

Bruce Lesley 8:33
Yeah we appreciate that. And we wholeheartedly agree, as we we say here, lifting kids out of poverty improves every aspect of their lives. Indeed. So a couple episodes ago on our podcast, we talked about our champions for children awards, and you are the number one champion for children in all of Congress. So for everyone to understand that is number one out of 435 ,

Speaker 1 8:56
Wow that means a lot to me. Thank you so much for that.

Bruce Lesley 8:59
We very much appreciate all you do. And the fact is, is that many politicians are not really focused on kids. And in fact, kids are often invisible or an afterthought in the halls of Congress, as you know. But as our huge champion for children and someone who really prioritizes what is it that made you make children and families such a priority? And you know, what brought you to your advocacy on this issue? I know, you’re a lawyer, and you had worked at the Federal Trade Commission. So that doesn’t show that you would automatically be such a great kid person. So why is it that you got to this point?

Speaker 1 9:38
Well I understand both as a policymaker and a parent, that investing in children and the health and safety and well being of children is the best investment we can make. And I actually got involved in policymaking from my parent role, firm believer in the possibilities and opportunities provide I did buy our public school system across the country. And when I looked at my neighborhood school, I said, Why is the place structure falling down? And why are the classes so big, and where are the art classes and music classes, because those are so important to kids. So I became an education advocate. And when I got involved, I started making change. And I thought, Oh, this can make a difference, I can make a difference. Parents can make a difference. The fact that I had a law degree, wasn’t necessarily relevant. Sometimes I say, I use my mom’s skills as much as my lawyer skills in Congress. But it did make a difference. And when I when I started that advocacy, I saw when students had the opportunity for that nurturing that care, that engaging education, they were going to have a better path through life. And so now as a member of the Education Committee, I look at education is from birth through whatever paths students take. So why it’s so important to have paid family leave, for example, because that gets kids and families off to a healthy start in life. Why it’s so important for children and families to have access to quality childcare, that really does make a difference. I just yesterday spoke to some people from early headstart program. And they were telling me about what a difference it makes in brain development for that nurturing and caring and early years. And then in the K 12 system. I know and I have seen, again, as a policymaker, and as a parent, when kids get a good education, they are on their way to success. And that’s true, regardless of what path they take. Just yesterday, we had a hearing on affordable college education, I also support all the trades programs and options for people to get a path to a good life, and a good job. But it really is because the investment early on, means more success for students, it also saves resources for those who are looking at it from an economic perspective, for every dollar we spend. In early childhood, we save dollars in the K 12 system in social services, and the criminal justice system, etc.

Bruce Lesley 12:17
Yeah, absolutely. You know, in your capacity on the Education Committee, and as a leader on that committee, I wanted to ask you about sort of the two agendas that we’ve talked about on our podcast about the agenda of the so called parents rights movement, that’s really led to things like book banning and censorship of curriculum and books and speech codes and all that kind of agenda. And then there’s also the agenda that you’ve really been a leader on, which is sort of centering children and their needs and equity and funding and supports. And so what is your take on where we stand there, and it felt like we were losing ground, but now seem to be picking up is getting this focus back on children.

Speaker 1 13:05
I appreciate that. When I first heard that we were going to be working on what what was called the Parents Bill of Rights. I thought, parental involvement. Great, Sign me up. I did that for years. In fact, I actually took a career break. And I was very involved as a parent in the school system. In fact, at one point, my son said to me, Mom, do you always have to be at school? Because I had the opportunity to do that. And I could see it was making a difference. So wonderful. How do we get more parents involved in schools and I started thinking about it. It’s not by giving them a blueprint for challenging curriculum or books in the library of there are education media specialists, and school librarians and educators who do that. But to get more parents involved, what we need to break down the barriers, for example, some parents would the child care to come to a conference, some might need transportation or a translator. So I started thinking about what we really need for authentic parental involvement, and how that would make a difference. So I actually wrote an alternative bill, parents and students bill of rights that really focuses on what is best for students and families and how to get that authentic parental involvement that we need. So I have respect for educators. I know it’s a challenging profession, particularly through the pandemic. But I know that when students get that well rounded, engaging education, they’re going to do better. So I’m very concerned about these attempts to for example, remove books from the library or have one parent challenge curriculum that affects all the students and I’ve, I’ve often wondered if these apparent challenges of book and it’s taken other library, what about all the other families who say wait, we want our child to be able to read those books. So I’m concerned about the movement but I also know that the benefits to students from that, well rounded education, that authentic education that recognizes the uniqueness of each student and doesn’t discriminate or make students feel like they’re not safe or welcome in schools is a problem. So I’m going to keep that message going, especially in our public school system, we want our schools to work for everyone, regardless of background, zip code, where the parents came from or just free from discrimination. In fact, the federal role in education really all came about in the civil rights era, to have equity and equal opportunities for students across the country. So that is, that is my focus to is to close those opportunity gaps and give every student the opportunity for a great well rounded education. I also want to mention that I’m a big supporter of arts education, because I see the benefit to students of having arts education, and one of the reasons I came to Congress was to get rid of No Child Left Behind, because it put too much focus on getting students to get good test scores. But this courses that weren’t tested, were being caught. And I just participated in an event focusing on the importance of arts, education, and arts and culture. And I have an arts education for all bill, because we want creative critical thinkers. And that’s what arts education does.

Bruce Lesley 16:29
Totally agree, the narrowing of curriculum that has been really caused by standardized testing. And that focus, we really appreciate sort of your broad focus on the whole needs of children. Yes, you know, we’ve talked a lot about education in the Child Tax Credit, being a number one champion for children, you’re you’re working on all aspects of the lives of kids and kids are really facing lots of challenges at this moment in time, indeed. So is there any other things that you would like to highlight that you’re working on and focused on at this time in Congress?

Speaker 1 17:03
Well, we know, particularly now that there’s a significant challenge with behavioral health needs, and we’re coming at that from many different perspectives. We need more people to enter into the field of behavioral health, particularly in schools. Students today are under still under a lot of stress post pandemic, recovering from the isolation, but also their concern. When I speak with students, they’re concerned about the future, about climate change, about gun violence, about global conflicts. And so we have to recognize that and meet those students where they are and have behavioral health services, not only available, but affordable for them, hopefully, in in school. This is another benefit of arts education, too, because the arts can be very healing. In fact, the surgeon general Murphy was at the event I attended the other day in talking about the importance of the arts said music is medicine. So getting those healing forces back into schools will be helpful for students as well, with behavioral health. And again, I’m also a big supporter of a well rounded education, current technical education, hands on education. I just visited a wonderful sustainable agriculture program at Liberty High School in Hillsboro, Oregon, and the students were growing food and they took some corn that they grew and rounded up and made tortillas. And so those life skills, and you could see the joy in their learning. And I do want to mention, there’s a public arts and communication magnet Academy in the Beaverton school district. And when I toured the chair of the National Endowment for the Arts there, she said, the students have so much confidence. So building confidence in students is really important. We want students to be prepared for the real world, regardless of what path they take, and having confidence and having critical thinking skills are important. I also want to mention, I’m working on the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act. We know that a significant portion of runaway youth or homeless youth are LGBTQ and often don’t feel safe at home or at school. So fighting that discrimination, having programs to you know, empower youth experiencing homelessness or survivors of trafficking, for example, having services to help them to be in you know, a safe spaces at home and in school is important. And I mentioned child care, which is really critical, not only to children, but to their families. Sometimes people think oh, this is just affecting a mom. Now. It affects the whole family if there’s not affordable childcare, so I’ve been working on appropriations for childcare on getting more people into the healthcare field. I’m also working on a building care with Housing Act that will co locate childcare at affordable housing, which makes a tremendous difference. I spoke with a mom, who basically it’s life changing for her because she doesn’t need to get on in a car or on transit, to take her child to a childcare facility and then go to work her child’s in a childcare at the place where they live. That makes a big difference for children and families as well.

Selley Looby 20:33
Coming up after the break, we hear from representative Bonamici about some more of the programs she’s been involved with and how she views kids as part of her mandate. Even if they don’t vote.

Bruce Lesley 20:43
All that and more ahead, please stick around.

Leila Nimatallah 20:49
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.

Amy Jo Hutchison 21:39
My name is Amy Jo Hutchison. I’m a born and raised West Virginia and 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 in 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 assessable way for us to become engaged and formed and to turn our pain into power. I really hope you’ll join them.

Leila Nimatallah 22:52
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 23:14
First Focus on Children is a bipartisan advocacy organization dedicated to making children and families the priority and federal policy and budget decisions.

Bruce Lesley 23:24
First 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 23:34
To learn more about our work and ways you can become ambassadors go to first

Bruce Lesley 23:39
Coming up on our state of play. We’ve got the incredible Michelle Kayal our vice president of media and communications here at First Focus on Children. She’s going to dive into how we can help policymakers and the public really understand and prioritize children from a communication standpoint,

Selley Looby 23:56
We’re not just talking about the child tax credit, but all the ways government is stepping up to support families and children. So get ready for a conversation that’s all about making a real difference in people’s lives.

Bruce Lesley 24:09
For the remainder of the Congress, you know, we’re in an election year. So what are some of the opportunities and threats, you see that our listeners and advocates like ourselves should be focused on?

Speaker 1 24:21
Well, my constituents don’t expect me to just get things done when it’s not an election year. So I just keep working away because we still have a lot of legislative days left. Always am working on the Child Nutrition Reauthorization because food insecurity is a serious problem in Oregon and across the country. And oftentimes the children come to school hungry and having meals for them there is really critical. I mentioned the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act. We just need to continue working on these programs. Wic Women, Infants and children’s program is really important as well, to make sure Are that particularly low income moms and babies are, are getting the nutrition that will get them off to a good start in life. So those are some of the things we can continue to work on, as we go through this Congress that that will help families, you know, the other, the farm bill, it’s a farm bill year and protecting snap, the food programs that help with addressing food insecurity are important for kids as well.

Bruce Lesley 25:27
We just did a recent podcast on WIC and the challenge. Oh, great, thank you, all the things you’re talking about are right.

Speaker 2 25:34
To us. I’ve been working for some time on the Child and Adult Care Food Program and have always had bipartisan support. We want to streamline that program. It’s the program that gives food to children and adults with disabilities who are in care during the day. And we want to streamline that program, for example, a lot of kids are in, you know, maybe a long day and care. So we want to get an extra meal and also streamline the program. So it’s easier for providers to access that food for the kids in their care. So that’s the Child and Adult Care Food Program. And I’m working on that as well. It’s

Bruce Lesley 26:10
awesome. We love to ask are huge champions for children, this question for listeners, and we need more people who are real huge advocates in Congress for kids. And so what would you say to our listeners of how, how is it that they can engage their members of Congress and Senators, to be more advocates for children and to really think about this whole? You know, people, sometimes it’s really focused on the individual issues. And you’ve talked about the whole child here. So how do we move other people to be supporters of the agenda you’re talking about, which is a kid’s agenda in Congress?

Speaker 2 26:48
I really appreciate that question, Bruce. And I have to say that telling stories makes a big difference. When we talk about policy in the abstract. It’s not nearly as meaningful as when we talk about how these policies these investments affect people. So for everyone listening, if you have a story about what it means to you, to your family, to your child, to have a meal at school, or to know that your child will have a well rounded education or that your childcare will be available and affordable. Tell that story whether it be at a town hall meeting or send an email to your members of Congress and your Senators tell the story. Because when when we’re passing policy here, we know it, it affects everybody in the country. But hearing those particular stories is what makes a difference. And it’s why I appreciate hearing from my constituents, and I mentioned the early headstart meeting yesterday, the people who visited me from the early headstart program in Washington County, Oregon, brought pictures of a family and said, Here’s the family. And here’s how they were helped with the Headstart program and the community action program. Another effort that I’ve been working on is bolstering the community service block grant program, because community action agencies are really the anti poverty agencies that help people navigate the system. And they showed how the mom and the dad and the kids benefited, getting connected with the healthcare getting connected with housing, there had been an injury in the family, and they were about to lose their home and we’re staying with friends, they were able to get back into a home, get the dad back to work. And what that means for the children of that family is tremendous. So knowing that the early headstart program and the community action program really helped that family when they were down and out a lot and got them back thriving is a story that I will take with me as I do this work. And I think about all the students I’ve spoken with, in schools and and I visited schools where they focus on getting good test scores, and I visited schools where they focus on well rounded education and includes the arts. And you can see a joy of learning. When students are more engaged and not just focusing on how do I get a good test score. So tell the story, tell the story about what it means to your community, to your family, and especially to your children.

Bruce Lesley 29:17
That’s very well put in, we would definitely encourage our listeners to reach out to your members of Congress and make those points I think, as we know, the kids are often invisible in the halls of Congress, they don’t vote, they don’t have political action committees, where there finally is one. But this is what needs to happen. We need to raise our voices. Absolutely.

Speaker 2 29:36
And I don’t look at my job as I’m the representative of the voters. I’m representative of the people who live with the district and that includes children. They are my constituents as

Bruce Lesley 29:47
well. That’s awesome. All right. So here’s our fun question for you. We have a speaking of kids playlist that we are creating on Spotify and Apple songs that that energize or guests and keep them in the game for improving the lives of kids. So is there a song or two that really motivate you?

Speaker 1 30:07
Oh, I’m glad you said too, because I was having. So there’s a couple St. Judy’s Comet is a Paul Simon song. And it’s kind of a lullaby. And I used to sing it to my children when they were falling asleep. And so I always think of it as a great mom song or parents song, I should say, because it’s actually Paul Simon singing to his child. And then the other one is back from the 70s is called Wake Up Everybody. And it was originally a song, I think it was Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes. But Marvin Gaye sang it. And more recently, John Legend did a version of it. And it’s really about how everyone can participate. And it talks about when there are problems in the world, when there is hatred, war and poverty, that it’s really up to everybody. And it really focuses on children, focuses on seniors, and it focuses on the opportunity and really obligation of everyone to have a part and addressing the challenges ahead

Bruce Lesley 31:10
Oh, I love that. I really do that. That’s awesome. Congresswoman, I just really want to thank you for all you do. It’s an honor. Love your staff to we love the partnership with you.

Speaker 2 31:21
Thank you. I can’t do what I do without my staff. I have amazing staff. Great. Well, thank

Bruce Lesley 31:26
you so much for coming on, of course happy to.

Selley Looby 31:34
So for today’s State of Play, we would like to welcome another one of our teammates Vice President of Communications, Michele Kayal.

Michele Kayal 31:41
Hey, Selley.

Selley Looby 31:42
Hey. So okay, so we just heard from Suzanne Bonamici, who was the leader in the House of Representatives on our legislative scorecard and 2023 as our top champion for children. She is a leader on an array of issues of importance to children, including education, early childhood, Child Nutrition, child abuse prevention, and issues of importance to runaway and homeless youth. In our second podcast. Celinda Lake talked about how the public is completely on the side of children, but a barriers that children are facing so many issues. In your opinion, Michele, you know, how can we overcome that barrier and get policymakers and the public to really understand that kids don’t live in silos they really need for their needs to be met holistically as Congresswoman Bonamici outlined earlier in our interview.

Michele Kayal 32:33
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the way to highlight the fact that kids face many different issues, and that kids do not live in silos is by always, always always calling out the kid angle on everything. If there’s a tax bill, what’s the kid angle? If there’s a foreign aid bill, what’s the kid angle, the goal is always to insert kids into whatever conversation is going on. I mean, of course, I’m biased because here, at first focus on children, the communications team puts out a weekly newsletter to journalists that we call the kid angle, but it’s really true. And it works. For instance, Congress right now is talking about foreign aid right to Ukraine to Israel. So this week, Leila Nimatallah, our VP of advocacy, is highlighting the fact that the US spends very little on foreign aid, and that of that very little, very, very, very, very, very little goes to children. So the foreign aid budget is used to lift kids out of poverty, and sustains and protects them in some of the most vulnerable situations around the world. So in legless piece, she calls for more of that budget, to go toward the needs of these kids. And so we have our policy team, really hammering that message all the time that there is a kid angle to everything. And then from the communications perspective, we really, then just bring that to the hill to the public everywhere. I mean, I shouted out to journalists, in the newsletter today, we do it on social media, and mentioning it in places like today’s podcast.

Bruce Lesley 34:03
That’s excellent. And trying to get that word out to the media and the public. We also know that in the halls of Congress, that the issues of kids are often invisible. I mean, Episode Eight, our friends at Their Future Our Vote, talked to us about how they’re creating a PAC to try to change that dynamic. But what else can we do from a communications perspective to get policymakers to really think about and understand that public policy really does have an impact on the lives of children?

Michele Kayal 34:30
That’s a great question, Bruce, from a communications perspective, it’s important to continue talking holistically about the needs of kids, as I said a minute ago, you know, weighing in on infrastructure, bills, transportation, bills, tax bills, every issue that people just assume has nothing to do with kids weigh in on that. And we also need to highlight the fact that helping kids helps the country and Representative Bonamici hit this on the head when she said you know, every dollar that we invest in early child hood saves money in the K through 12 system and social services, criminal justice, et cetera. You know, we’d like to think that people will take care of kids because it’s the right thing to do. If that were really true, then the world would be a much better place than it is. So sadly, it’s really important to keep circling back to the, quote, return on investment that we get, when we take care of kids. We just need to keep drawing a direct line between the investment we make in children and the good things it brings to them and to the nation as a whole, Representative Bonamici used the example of K through 12 education. But if you go even longer than that, and broader than that, there’s a ton of research that shows that those children that we invest in early, go on to earn more money, pay more taxes, use fewer public services, and all around deliver more to the nation’s economy and to our democracy, they’re better citizens. So those things are really important.

Selley Looby 36:00
Very well said, Michele, when you were talking, I couldn’t help I just watched We Are The World the Netflix special and the song came to mind, which I think would be pretty appropriate right now. But for our listeners, you know, what can they do to really increase awareness and expand support for making children a greater priority in this country.

Michele Kayal 36:21
So Representative Bonamici really hit it on the head when she suggested that they do the thing that only they can do, which is tell your story. Talk about what these policies mean to you and to your children. Talk to anybody who will listen, especially talk to your members of Congress bombard the senators and representatives with stories, send them letters, call them, let them know how these policies have changed your life, or how losing some of these benefits will change your life. Those stories are the ones that really move everybody. They’re the ones that move lawmakers, they move journalists, any story is what people really want to know how does this really affect people, humans, I always call it humans, when journalists are looking for Well, is there somebody we can talk to. So those are always the humans that you need in the story. On another note, of course, first focus campaign for children can help people do this. At the campaign, we have regular action alerts, and folks can sign up to be part of that. If folks really want to be active, I would urge them to take a step further and become an ambassador. And if neither of those things fits into your lifestyle or your schedule, then simply sharing first focus on children’s social media with friends, family followers, and of course, with your members of Congress. For folks who have a lot of extra time on their hands, or just really love, you know, sharing their opinion, letters to the editor are always great. They’re also a high bar to achieve. A lot of them don’t get published. So I can understand where that would be a deterrent to people, you know, because I take a lot of time. But one thing you can always do is call out the media when they’ve missed the kid angle on something. Bruce, you and I were talking the other day that you know, a certain national newspaper that shall remain nameless, recently did a whole story about the child tax credit, and talked about how it helped parents. So after I stopped my head from exploding, we sent a note to the reporters saying, hey, great story. But dude, children, it’s the Child Tax Credit. Please talk more about children next time. You know, and I feel fine with that. They didn’t respond. But you know, reporters are just people. If you see something, say something, send an email

Selley Looby 38:36
And shameless plug as the resident fundraiser is if all those things are not possible, and you just want to write a check and support our work. That’s also welcome too,

Bruce Lesley 38:49
That’s exactly right. And for your point, Michele, like we’d see that often, right? We see that all the time in newspaper stories where they can go on and on about even an issue like is you putting on the child tax credit to work child abuse and neglect and you know, what should happen to the kids and no one asks the kids, it’s their lives, their trauma, their needs that we’re trying to address here. And often those stories are all about what the adults think. Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for joining us.

Michele Kayal 39:17
Thanks so much for having me. Anytime. love talking to you guys.

Bruce Lesley 39:23
This is Speaking of Kids. Thanks for listening. I’m Bruce Lesley.

Selley Looby 39:26
And I’m Messellech Looby. Special thanks to our guests Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici and Michelle Kayal.

Bruce Lesley 39:32
Speaking of kids as a podcast by First Focus on Children.

Selley Looby 39:36
Elizabeth Windom is the supervising producer and Julia Windom is the Associate Producer.

Bruce Lesley 39:41
Leila Nimatallah is the advocacy and mobilization producer, and the senior producer is J. Woodward.

Selley Looby 39:48
Ourtheme music is don’t look twice by Sam Barsh.

Bruce Lesley 39:51
For more information about this week’s episode, go to firstfocus,org. You can find all our links in our show notes.

Selley Looby 39:57
And if you have any thoughts, questions We are interested in becoming a first focus on children ambassador, email us at speaking of kids at

Bruce Lesley 40:07
and please follow rate and review on Apple podcast Spotify or YouTube.

Selley Looby 40:12
Speaking of Kids is produced by Windhaven productions and blue J Atlantic.

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