Policy Resource

Babies and the Ballot Box: Inserting Young Children into the Debate

Oct 18, 2012

The first Presidential debate is this Wednesday. The news media can’t stop talking about the campaign and the candidates’ positions on major issues.

The first Presidential debate is this Wednesday. The news media can’t stop talking about the campaign and the candidates’ positions on major issues. In fact, most candidates—whether they are from the state, local, or national level—are taking this time before Election Day to flesh out their political platforms to the public at large. But something is missing. In these conversations, even those about education, very few people are talking about families, babies, and their early care and learning experiences.

This election is about big things, we hear. Issues that directly affect young children don’t always rise to the level of a national debate. Here are some reasons they should. Each year, over 4 million babies are born in the U.S. This isn’t going to change, no matter what jobs plan is adopted or how deficit reduction is achieved. The real question is what quality of life we will be able to offer them—and that is worthy of policymakers’ attention.

  • From the moment these babies open their eyes—actually even before—they are on the path toward school readiness. We know not all of their moms receive adequate prenatal care. So babies have a big stake in women’s access to health care.
  • A lot of parents would like–but can’t afford—to spend the first weeks and months after giving birth to or adopting a child to create the bonds that are so important in forming the social-emotional foundations for learning. Paid parental leave doesn’t seem to be on the agenda.
  • In the first year of those 4 million-plus babies’ lives, 63% of their moms will reenter the workforce. They will have to scramble to find high quality, affordable care.
  • And five years later, those children in the lowest socio-economic quintile will stand at the Kindergarten door already far behind their peers whose families have more resources. Where’s the talk about expanding Early Head Start so more of the one-in-four infants and toddlers whose families live below the poverty line can benefit?
  • A lot of the programs that help support these babies’ early development could be caught up in deficit reduction: Head Start/Early Head Start, child care, nutrition, housing, early intervention, and more, are all on the table for further cuts. Are we really saving our future by failing to ensure today’s infants and toddlers are well prepared for it? While these issues might seem like kids’ stuff, failure to address them doesn’t bode well for educational or future economic success. Maybe if policymakers/candidates saw them not as children’s issues, but as national competitiveness issues, they would get more attention.

Perhaps they need to hear that these issues matter from a Big Voice for Little Kids™. Here are some things that you can do to make a difference during this election cycle:

Sign up for an October 2nd Webinar (that’s tomorrow): For more information on how your nonprofit can make a difference during this election, sign up for Every Child Matter’s free webinar, Being a Voice for Kids During the Election, on October 2nd from 2 to 3 pm.

Get registered to vote. And if you already are registered, take someone else who isn’t to get registered. Click here to find out more information about registering:

Be mindful, some states require you to register a full month in advance, while other states have instituted new voter laws. For instance, several states now require voter IDs in order to cast a vote. Other states have eliminated same day voter registration and others have changed early voting dates or practices. Be proactive, because you are the voter and all of these candidates are just hoping that you will vote for them. You can get more voter registration information from this guide from the Brennan Center for Justice.

Go to Town Hall Meetings: Ask the tough questions about policies and babies. This issue can easily fall by the wayside, or it can become a cause to champion—the choice is yours. Just be careful, if you are representing a nonprofit, check out this guide.

Join Twitter: Half in Ten and Every Child Matters have started a campaign to promote issues surrounding child poverty in the upcoming presidential debates. You can use Twitter to make a difference in this election cycle and call for the debate moderators to bring up questions about child poverty. To learn more about the Twitter campaign, click here . And read our blog post on infants and toddlers in low-income families.

And of course, don’t forget to VOTE! In the words of Civil Rights Activist Vernon Dahmer Sr., “If you don’t vote, you don’t count.” Make sure your voice for infants and toddlers counts this election cycle!

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