Shaquita Ogletree
On Thursday, October 4, First Focus hosted their annual event, Children’s Budget Summit to discuss the findings in the Children’s Budget 2018 report. The report captures and analyzes historical funding data and spending trends across a wide range of policy areas including child welfare, early childhood, education, health, housing, income support, nutrition, safety and training, tracking federal investments in nearly 200 different programs.

Speakers included Bruce Lesley and Michelle Dallafior from First Focus, Lynn Karoly from the RAND Corporation, Natasha Slesnick from Ohio State University, Rev. Fr. Douglas Greenaway from the National WIC Association, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).

First Focus’s President, Bruce Lesley emphasized how children are often forgotten in policy debates. He went on to say that the Children’s Budget 2018 highlights what we value in America and with children only received 8.06 percent of federal spending when they make up nearly a quarter of the population, is disappointing. If the President’s FY 2019 budget proposal was enacted 41 programs serving children would have been eliminated and the share on spending for kids would be 6.89 percent.

The good news Mr. Lesley exclaimed was that we have champions for children in Congress and Senator Stabenow is one of many that has been a consistent advocate. She was recognized as the 2018 Champion for Children by First Focus for her support of legislation favoring children. Mr. Lesley quoted former Vice President Joe Biden, “Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.”

Children advocates have proposed several solutions that would not cost money but would allow for greater investments in children and would decrease the 32.3 percent of children living in poverty in the U.S. Proposals include:

• Create a Children’s Budget
• Establishment of an Independent Commission for Children
• Create a Child Poverty Target; support and passage of S. 1630/HR 3381
• Create a Select Committee on Children, Youth, and Families
• Create a Children’s Cabinet at the Federal Level
• Enact Homeless Children and Youth Act; S. 611/HR 1511
• Convert CHIP to a permanent, mandatory program
• Reform TANF

Ms. Karoly shared the findings from the two reports from the National Academics of Science, Engineering, and Medicine – Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation (2015) and Transforming the Financing of Early Care and Education (2018). The reports highlight how current funding is insufficient to fully support the zero to eight child care workforce. The estimated total cost to provide children with a healthy start in life through an affordable high-quality early childhood education is $140 billion. Ms. Karoly also discussed some of the congressional steps taken to fund programs that improve outcomes for young children to counteract the impact of the opioid crisis and other adverse experiences.

Ms. Slesnick described the impact of opioids and children focusing on runaway and homeless youth and substance-using mothers and their children. The opioids epidemic is a child’s problem, and adolescent is primetime for intervention. Ms. Slesnick underscored that engaging children improves parent outcomes when substances are involved. Rev. Greenaway highlighted the need to prioritize moms and support WIC. Even though it has been funded at full levels recently, funding caps could be a challenge in the future. WIC currently supports 7 million participants in the U.S.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, is the author of What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City. The book details the Flint water crisis and the advocacy efforts of a national emergency. She underlined that Flint, Michigan had been disenfranchised for decades before the water crisis. Data has shown that children in Flint live 15 years less than a child in an adjacent zip code. She pointed out the irony that even though Flint is surrounded by the largest source of fresh water in the United States this natural disaster occurred.

Dr. Hanna-Attisha shared that policymakers, including Senator Stabenow, have stepped up for children in Flint including implementing free evidenced-based programs for all children like home visiting, trauma-informed care, mindfulness in school, and year-round high-quality early childhood education. Flint is an example of how government prioritizes children in a reactive approach and she proposed that we should be proactive as the best approach for children. Recent programs implemented in Flint can be scaled up and replicated across the nation. She closed by quoting Fredrick Douglass who said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

For a copy of the Budget go here.