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A new Congress comes in January but the current Congress has work to do.  Our children are waiting for us to meet our commitments to them.  All they are asking for is a healthy meal, a nurturing environment, and a solid education.  Surely we can deliver!

Let’s start with a healthy meal.  Our current Congressmen have returned to Washington this week with lots on their plate (pun intended!).  Beyond the important economic issues that dominate the airwaves is the equally important issue of reauthorizing the Child Nutrition Act.  Almost 1.3 million Georgia Children depend on this for school lunches and other meals.  Your Congressman in the U.S. House needs to hear from you about getting this done by December 31.

Kids also need quality care while Mom and Dad work and early education programs to help them get ready to read.  The federal appropriations bill can ensure that 300,000 little ones get the continuing benefit of Head Start, the Child Care and Development Block Grant, and Early Learning Challenge Grants.  Add this to your talking points with your Congressmen.

Pat Willis, Executive Director

Voices for Georgia’s Children

There is a lot of news in education these days…

Last Tuesday applications for round two of the federal government’s Race To The Top (RT3) program were due. Georgia plus 34 other states and the District of Columbia applied. If selected as a RT3 winner, Georgia could receive over $400 million.

  • To view Georgia’s application click here. (warning – it’s over 200 pages)

The following day, leaders from the National Governors’ Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers descended on Georgia (specifically on Peachtree Ridge High School in Suwanee) for the release of the Common Core State Standards.

  • For an excellent overview of the issues surrounding the CCSS click here to read the brief from Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education (don’t worry – this one really is an overview – only 4 pages).

Both of these endeavors have many vocal supporters as well as many vocal detractors. Both contain many elements we want to see for all our children – a focus on excellence, equality and success. At Voices we want to raise the bar for all children so that every child truly has a chance to succeed first in school and later in life. The concern is that equal isn’t always fair. It’s too simplistic to think that if we give all children exactly the same support, they will all excel in exactly the same way.

The reality is that some children are more vulnerable than others. Think about the impact on learning when a child regularly comes to school hungry, spends their day worrying about where they’ll sleep at night or if dad has gone back to jail. What about when the child fears being beaten when they get home, worries about mom using drugs again or about the gunshots they’ll hear just outside their front door? What is the impact when the peers that surround a child discourage her from doing her homework or him from even going to school?

For all children to achieve, we have to accept that some will need more support than others. During this time of fiscal crisis, it is more important than ever to examine our public spending and target it to the places where it is most needed and can make the most difference. Our vulnerable youth need our support and they will pay us back by succeeding, by joining the ranks of the gainfully employed and civically minded. Yes – let’s continue to improve conditions for all of Georgia’s children but let’s also remember that our most vulnerable youth may need need some extra attention. If Georgia is awarded RT3 dollars or adopts the CCSS or really as we go forward with any major education reform, there has to be special attention paid to vulnerable children if we are going to give them all a chance at success.

Children need lobbyists.  I’ve blogged about this before.  Individuals and nonprofits that care about children’s issues should storm the state capitol every January.  We must do so, in order to give the interests of children a fighting chance for the attention and commitment of lawmakers. (YES, non profits can lobby legally!  Just follow the IRS rules.  The Alliance for Justice will tell you how.)

But lobbyists for children, whether Moms, Dads, volunteers or nonprofits, rarely have the resources for the tickets, restaurants, trips and entertainment that often are offered by lobbyists in the corporate sector.  I don’t believe that most legislators “sell” their votes.  But the familiarity, even friendship, that develops over a good meal, cheering the Braves, walking the links, create pressures.  We all experience it, not just in politics but in organizations, neighborhoods, anywhere.  It doesn’t mean that legislators don’t care about kids or other social issues.  But the kids’ lobbyists don’t get the same amount of face time, nor time that breeds a sense of obligation. 

This is why the opinion piece by Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver today in the AJC makes sense.   In speaking to your representatives about the rules on gifts from lobbyists and other ethics legislation, you are asking for a level playing field for all the interests addressed by our elected officials.  I’m asking for it for children. 

Pat Willis, Executive Director

Voices for Georgia’s Children

The next constellation in the public policy sky may look like a baby crib.  This week two powerful organizations with strong business representation publicly underscored the need to invest in very young children.  Without it, they agree, we will not achieve higher graduation rates and work-ready young adults.  Furthermore, our businesses and government, meaning ultimately consumers and taxpayers, will pay more later.

On Monday the United Way Early Education Commission released its recommendations after 18 months of study.  Led by Dennis Lockhart, chair of the Atlanta Fed, and Dr. Beverly Tatum, president of Spelman, the Commission was clear that young children from birth to five must be a priority for Georgia, meaning that we must invest so that children are ready to learn by kindergarten and “reading to learn” by third grade.

Today, the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education emailed the third edition of Economics of Education.  Introduced by a letter from the executives of GPEE and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the report lays out three critical issues related to success in education and workforce development.  The first issue, Early Life Experiences, included not only the need for our Georgia PreK program but for infant and maternal health, quality child care and family supports.

Before we “race to the top” in our K-12 schools, let’s be sure we get in shape before the starting line.  Healthy and ready preschoolers will make the race a whole lot easier.

Pat Willis, Executive Director, Voices for Georgia’s Children

Among other good news for children in the healthcare reform bill passed by Congress on March 23 is a commitment to reduce child abuse and neglect through home visitation programs.  The bill authorizes $1.5 billion over five years to be awarded as grants to states for services to families with infants and young children.  

Here’s the challenge for Georgia:  In order to receive funds the state must conduct assessments of factors indicating need for services and existing home visiting programs to ensure better targeting and coordination.   The assessments must be done within six months, and the clock started ticking on March 23. 

Which of our state agencies will step forward to lead this effort?  DFCS which has about $900,000 in one model of home visitation?  Public Health which is newly re-organizing with a strong interest but no designated funding?  The Governor’s Office for Children and Families which absorbed the Children’s Trust Fund , once but no longer a major source of home visiting funding?  The Department of Early Care and Learning which has an inherent interest in the age group but no history or funding for early intervention programs?

Georgia’s children desperately need these programs.  Child abuse is greatest among very young children.  Home visitation programs have proven to reduce child abuse and neglect and have promise of improving child development for later learning.  Advocates need to step up and encourage state agency leadership and collaboration to get these assessments done now.  The clock is ticking.

Pat Willis, Executive Director

Voices for Georgia’s Children, www.georgiavoices.org

As the debate on healthcare reform approached a vote on Sunday evening, Speaker Pelosi called out the names of organizations that had worked collaboratively in support of reform.  One of those was Voices for America’s Children, our national association.  Our national membership organization worked tirelessly to ensure that the needs of children were given priority in health reform.  Our objective in the health reform debate was not to structure reform but to make sure that the gains for child health that we have made over the years with the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and its reauthorization in 2009 were sustained and hopefully improved.  We are delighted that one of the immediate impacts of the legislation, if enacted, will guarantee that children with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied health insurance.

There are no do-overs for childhood.  Healthy children become healthy adults.  Our national, state and local health policies must recognize this as both an obligation to the most vulnerable and an opportunity for cost savings and increased productivity in the future.

Pat Willis, Executive Director

Watch interview of USDOE Head Arne Duncan on YouTube discussing the social and emotional needs of children that must be met if we are to successfully meet their educational needs as well.

If children are hungry, they cannot learn…

If children can’t see the blackboard, they cannot learn…

This is a battle for social justice…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DuO_nB7WY9w

FROM THE NATIONAL WOMEN’S LAW CENTER

Today thousands of advocates are joining together to “March Forth” in support of increased funding for child care, Head Start and child nutrition. This year’s action theme — “Families Earning, Children Learning” — reminds Congress of the importance of these programs for children, parents and our economic recovery.

Take action today by calling or e-mailing Congress.

To call your Members of Congress, use the script below and dial toll-free at 1-888-460-0813. The operator who answers the phone will ask which Senator or Representative you would like to speak to. To find out who your Senators and Representative are, search our directory.

When you’re connected with their offices, tell the staffers who answer the phone:

  • Hi, my name is __________. I’m a constituent. (If you are also a parent, child care provider, community leader, etc., feel free to mention that as well.)
  • I am calling because I believe child care, Head Start and child nutrition are essential programs for children and families. I urge the Senator/Representative to support the increases for these programs proposed in the President’s budget.

Remember to call back until you’ve spoken to the offices of your Representative and both of your Senators.

Here’s why you should take action right now:

Your Members of Congress have started to work on the federal budget, which determines a large chunk of funding for child care and early education programs, along with other programs that matter for women and families. By calling today, we can make sure that Congress knows that the increased investments proposed in the President’s budget are necessary.

The more calls and e-mails they get, the more pressure Congress will feel to support these vital programs. So please help spread the word by forwarding this e-mail to friends, family and colleagues.

Thanks for Marching Forth with us!

Helen BlankBest wishes,

Helen Blank
Director, Leadership and Public Policy
National Women’s Law Center

P.S. For more information about the President’s budget proposal for child care and early education, check out our fact sheet and blog post.

P.P.S. Many thanks to our partner organization, AFSCME, for providing the toll-free number to reach Congress — 1-888-460-0813.

Found a great new resource for child welfare policy – the State Child Welfare Policy Database. It’s a website sponsored by Casey Family Programs that pulls together policies from across the country and lets you search by state or subject matter. Right now the subject matter is limited to: 1) Child Welfare Financing; 2) Kinship Care Policies; and 3) Older Youth in Foster Care but each of those is broken down into multiple important subtopics and the site says it will soon be adding more subjects.

Looking just at older youth, there are breakdowns for:

  • Foster Care Age Limits
  • Circumstances in which Youth can Stay in Care Past 18th Birthday
  • Requirements Youth Must Comply with to Stay in Care Past 18th Birthday
  • Circumstances in which Youth Can Stay in Care Past 19th Birthday
  • Requirements Youth Must Comply with to Stay in Care Past 19th Birthday
  • Court Jurisdiction After 18
  • Placements for Older Youth
  • Re-entry into Foster Care
  • Chafee Foster Care Independence Program
  • State-funded Independent Living (IL)/Transition Services

Check it out at http://www.childwelfarepolicy.org/pages/map.cfm and also let me know if you’re aware of other strong on-line policy resources.

beth

Spent a day this week going through my wildly out-of-control email inbox and trying to catch-up on a few things – Okay, on a lot of things…my apologies to those of you who didn’t always get the most timely responses 😉

It was a lot of work, but I’m glad I did it. As overwhelmed as I feel by all the “updates” sent to me, the reality is they often provide great information. One I thought was particularly worth sharing came from Connect For Kids. They send biweekly email updates that cover a huge range of child advocacy topics. Apparently last year they counted the “hits” on each of the stories/links in those weekly updates and compiled a list of the most popular. Take a look at their website or go directly to any of the stories below that were of interest to folks all across the country.

b

FROM CONNECT FOR KIDS:

The Most Popular Items from Updates in 2009

Overall, you clicked on funding alerts more than any other single category in the 2009 CFK Updates. It’s not really fair to single out a few feature items, but it is interesting. Here, in a nutshell, were your favorites:

Admins/Authors

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