As the clock ticks down on the remaining months of the 112th Congress, the series of year-end tax and budget deadlines loom ever larger.

The primary cash assistance program for low-income families with children, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), expires on September 30, 2012. Among the number of tax items due to expire on December 31, 2012 are key components of the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) – the loss of which could impact up to 26 million children in low- and moderate-income households. And under the Budget Control Act, January 1, 2013 marks the arrival of “sequestration”, essentially an automatic across-the-board cut to most federal programs, including significant cuts to K-12 and early education, that kicks in if a debt reduction plan is not agreed to beforehand.

The stakes for children are high and policymakers and advocates alike need to know how the decisions above will impact our youngest citizens. Below (in order of release date) are a collection of summer resources at the top of our list:

Children’s Budget Book 2012: A First Focus guide to the more than 180 distinct investments that comprise federal spending on children, excluding the tax code. The 2012 program-by-program analysis finds discretionary spending on children in decline for the second consecutive year, resulting in the direction of less than 8% of the entire federal budget to children.

Kids’ Share 2012: An Urban Institute analysis of the trends from the past 50 years in federal spending and tax expenditures on children. Of particular note – and concern – is the topline finding that in 2011, federal outlays (the sum of all direct federal program spending and all tax refunds, excluding tax reductions) on children fell for the first time since the early 1980s and are projected to decline further in 2012 and beyond. It also includes an analysis of state and local spending trends on children, as well as a peek into the future with a 10-year projection of federal spending on children and the impact of the Budget Control Act.

KIDS COUNT Data Book 2012: The annual go-to guide from our partner, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, provides a national and state-by-state analysis of how children are currently faring across four key areas: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. While children’s health and educational achievement made gains across the country, the 2012 Data Book highlights the factors behind the continued decline of family economic security – a decline threatening American child well-being overall.

A common theme emerges from all these publications: investing in children works, but future success is not guaranteed. Evidence proves that investments in child health, child nutrition, and economic security result in healthier and more successful kids. And more successful kids result in a stronger nation. As the old saying goes, you only get what you pay for – and these achievements can only be sustained with sustained spending on kids. So Congress, read up!