12 Million Reasons to VOTE!
As we head into the final week before the election, let’s pause to focus on what is most precious to us—our families, our neighbors, and our communities.
With political rhetoric at a fever pitch, it can be difficult to see how your voice can be heard among all the noise. But at our core, we must keep thinking about shaping the future we want for our children. The most potent way we have of affecting that path on a large scale is to exercise our right and responsibility in determining who will represent us at all levels of government.
In short, it is vital that we all VOTE. There is power in that one simple act. You may be able to vote early or wait until Election Day, November 6. Most importantly, find out where and how you can vote and just do it (visit vote.org for useful resources).
If you are still looking for a reason to vote, we can give you 12 million of them. There are 12 million infants and toddlers depending on those of us eighteen or older to actively participate in our government and guide the nation they will someday inherit. Babies are our future doctors, construction workers, teachers, scientists, mothers, fathers, and, yes, elected officials. The babies of today will invent the next generation of computers, discover new cancer treatments, and grapple with climate change. If you’re reading this blog, you know babies matter.
Those 12 million babies and toddlers represent tremendous potential, every drop of which our country will need for a strong future. Yet, too much of that potential is at risk of going unfulfilled because our babies do not all have equitable access to the ingredients they need to thrive: good health, strong families, and positive early learning experiences. More than 2 in 5 infants and toddlers live in low-income families (defined as having incomes at or below 200% of the federal poverty level, the amount economists estimate families need to make ends meet). One in 5 live in families whose income falls below the poverty line. The United States lags behind other developed nations in relative child poverty, measures such as mortality rates for children under 5 and infants, and policies that place nurturing children at the top of the national agenda.
Some other observations about the ingredients for a strong future:
Good Health: Great strides have been made over the last several decades in securing health insurance for children (about 94% of children under 3 have coverage) and even coverage for their parents. Yet, we still have too many babies born too soon and too small. A disproportionate number of them are babies of color.
Strong Families: Supportive relationships nurture early development. Many young children live in families where economic pressures, housing instability, and concerns about safety or family security create stress that can hamper these critical relationships. Programs such as paid family and medical leave, home visiting, and other family support programs, housing assistance, and income supports would help. Yet, these supports reach too few families, and overall advances have been uneven. For example, federal support for home visiting has increased, but Temporary Assistance for Needy Families—once a source of cash for basic needs—reaches far fewer families in poverty than a few decades ago.
Positive Early Learning Experiences: Working parents are a fact of life for the majority of babies and toddlers. Child care for the youngest children continues to be a challenge: it is scarce to begin with, costs more than college in many states, and quality care is both expensive and hard to find. Again, a lack of equity of access to programs and quality creates more disparities. The low-income children who could benefit from the comprehensive services of Early Head Start will find only about 7 percent of eligible infants and toddlers are able to participate.
We all want the same things for our children: that they grow up happy and healthy, reach their potential, and live productive, satisfying lives. If their futures are secure, so is the future of our nation. If unaddressed obstacles mean too much potential is squandered, our nation will fall short. To ensure all young children can live out our hopes for them, we need to stay involved in the civic life of our nation. So, between now and when the polls close on November 6, Be a Big Voice for Little Kids™ and VOTE! Vote like our future depends on it—because 12 million babies tell us it does.
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