05 March 2008

Children are one third of our population and all of our future.

"Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see."
~John W. Whitehead
The Stealing of America, 1983

The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit provides insufficient relief to families struggling with child care expenses. Reforming the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit by making it refundable and allowing low-income families to get at least partial credit for their child care expenses would substantially ease the burden on families with young children, leaving more of their income to be put toward basic necessities.

Ensuring that all children can meet high standards, even those from lower economic strata who often start with as much as a two year deficit when entering school, is a laudable goal - but the current law forces teachers, principals and schools to accomplish the goals of No Child Left Behind without providing adequate resources. It has failed to provide high-quality teachers in every classroom and failed to support and pay those teachers. Too many of our educators are now demoralized, and while no amount of money will solve the issues if parents don't take an active role, we need our elected officials to ensure that NCLB reform addresses the need for a broader and better range of assessments and an accountability system that focuses on improving schools, rather than punishing them.

Children are our most precious resource, they are our future. It is our duty as a society to strive to provide them optimal skills and support to learn and flourish. Tests administered early in the academic year, for example, can better inform a teacher's lesson plans to address the specific needs - and deficiencies - of the current year's cohort in the classroom. Course corrections are most effective done early, no matter if one is sailing the ocean or seeking academic excellence.

"Children's talent to endure stems from their ignorance of alternatives."
~Maya Angelou
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, 1969

We must support programs such as the Nurse-Family Partnership to low-income, first-time mothers. The Nurse-Family Partnership provides home visits by trained RNs using proven methods to help improve the mental and physical health of the family by providing counseling on substance abuse, creating and achieving personal goals, and effective methods of nurturing children. Researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis concluded that these programs produced an average of five dollars in savings for every dollar invested and produced more than $28,000 in net savings for every high-risk family enrolled in the program to improve women's prenatal health while contributing to a reduction in childhood injuries, increased father involvement, and reduced reliance upon welfare and food stamps, while also improving children's readiness for school.

Talk to your elected officials about their stands on these critical issues. Write letters to your Senators and Congressional Representatives letting them know your continued support depends on their ensuring NCLB is reformed so that its stated goals become motivators. Encourage more reading and conversation, more interpersonal interaction - we cannot all sit back and watch TV if we want to make progress, we much take action and lead by example.

"...at the dawn of the 21st century we also have a collective responsibility to recommit ourselves to the dream; to strengthen that safety net, put the rungs back on that ladder to the middle-class, and give every family the chance that so many of our parents and grandparents had. This responsibility is one that's been missing from Washington for far too long..."

"Children are one third of our population and all of our future."
~Select Panel for the Promotion of Child Health, 1981

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