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Statement by Shay Bilchik, President/CEO, Child Welfare League of America on the President's State of the Union Address

Promises to Keep


Washington, DC - In his second term as President of the United States, President Bush has promised to shift his focus to a domestic agenda, and so far we have heard a lot about the potential privatization of Social Security and the implications of this restructuring for future generations. We have heard a lot about his vision to allow workers to make investments in the stock market as a way of saving for their retirement. What we have not yet heard from the President is his vision, and his promise, for America's 3 million abused, neglected, and vulnerable children.

We urge the President to make--and keep--a promise to these children, youth, and families by declaring that they are indeed a top national priority. President Bush can choose to leave behind a legacy of hope and promise for America's children by confronting one of the greatest challenges we face today--ensuring their health, safety, and well-being.

As we reflect on the state of our union, it is critical that we examine the state of our children, youth, and families. In particular, we must work to better the lives of the abused and neglected children in our child welfare system, including the growing number of children being raised by their grandparents or other relatives when it is not safe for them to live at home.

We call on the President and Congress to understand that a plan "to build a better world for our children and grandchildren" also means protecting children from abuse and neglect, and investing in programs and services that help children grow to be adults who are able to participate fully in their community. We applaud the President's new initiative for at-risk youth and look forward to working with the administration and Congress on its development. We also encourage the President to consider the following recommendations:
  • Make a Promise to Children. As the President and Congress begin to make decisions regarding this year's funding priorities, we urge them to increase the resources necessary to provide a broad range of services and supports for children in foster care. This includes resources to enhance the capacity and quality of the child welfare workforce--our nation's "first responders" in protecting our children.

  • Act on this Promise. We urge the President to reject efforts to curtail the capacity of the federal government to respond to or invest in vital human services, and reject efforts to set limits on programs that will cause them to shrink over time--to serve fewer children and to serve them less well, regardless of need.

  • Keep this Promise. The President and Congress should support federal budget proposals that would provide vital treatment and safety services on an ongoing, consistent basis. The federal government must not turn its back on children.
The President has called for a nation where every American holds a stake in the promise and future of our great nation. He has promised to work to give Americans greater freedom from want and fear. An equally noble promise, Mr. President, would be to heed the words of late Representative Claude Pepper: "Don't forget about the children."

Established in 1920, the Child Welfare League of America is the nation's oldest and largest membership-based child welfare organization. CWLA is committed to engaging people everywhere in promoting the well-being of children, youth, and their families, and protecting every child from harm. Headquartered in Washington, DC, CWLA strives to advance sound public policy on behalf of the three million abused and neglected children served by its more than 900 public and private member agencies.

For additional information or to interview Mr. Bilchik, contact the CWLA Press Office at 202/942-0244, or email

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