Issue Position: Children
Barack Obama and Joe Biden are committed advocates for children. They will make sure that every child has health insurance, expand educational opportunities for low-income children, extend resources for low-income families, support and supplement our struggling foster care system, and protect children from violence and neglect.
Health Cover Every Child: Barack Obama and Joe Biden are committed to making sure every child has health insurance. Forty-seven million Americans lack health coverage, including nine million children. Barack Obama and Joe Biden have a plan to sign legislation providing quality, affordable health care to all Americans by the end of his first term. Their health plan will mandate coverage of children.
A History of Expanding Health Care to Children: As a state senator, Obama sponsored and helped pass legislation that expands Illinois' KidCare program which provided coverage to 150,000 parents and their children.
Expand Medicaid and SCHIP: Together, Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) provide health coverage for one in four of our nation's children. Currently, over 28 million children are enrolled in Medicaid, the nation's major source of health coverage for low-income people. SCHIP, which targets low-income uninsured children who do not qualify for Medicaid, covers 6 million additional children. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will expand eligibility for the Medicaid and SCHIP programs and ensure that these programs continue to serve their critical safety net function.
Promote Healthy Lifestyles: One out of every 3 children and adolescents--25 million--are overweight and obese because of excessive food intake and lack of physical activity. How a community is designed (its roads, buildings and parks) can have a huge impact on the health of residents, especially children. For instance, nearly one-third of Americans live in neighborhoods without sidewalks, and less than half of our country's children have a playground within walking distance of their homes. This lack of a safe place to walk and play is a major contributor to the growing numbers of overweight children. Barack Obama and Joe Biden introduced the Healthy Places Act to help state and local governments assess the health impact of new policies or projects, whether it is a new highway or shopping center. Once the health impact is determined, the bill gives grant funding and technical assistance to help address potential health problems.
Protect Children and Families from Lead Poisoning: Lead is a neurotoxin and especially harmful to developing nervous systems of fetuses and young children. There are currently 400,000 children suffering from lead poisoning in the U.S. Barack Obama has fought to get the Environmental Protection Agency to publish long-overdue rules for how contractors involved in the renovation and remodeling of homes should deal with lead paint hazards. He introduced the Lead-Free Toys Act to require the Consumer Product Safety Commission to ban any children's product containing lead. Obama also introduced legislation that would help protect children from lead poisoning by requiring all non-home-based child care facilities, including Head Start programs and kindergartens, to be lead-safe within five years. As president, Barack Obama will sign into law the Lead-Free Toys Act to ban the sale of children's products that contain more than a trace amount of lead. The Obama measure would classify lead in children's products as a hazardous material.
Help Autistic Americans and their Families: Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe that we must do more to help support Americans with ASD, their families, and their communities. Throughout his career, Barack Obama has worked with families affected by ASD to raise awareness and to provide support to parents and families living with ASD. As president, Obama will build on these many years of advocacy and ensure that his administration prioritizes ASD research, public awareness, and lifelong support services. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will seek to increase federal ASD funding for research, treatment, screenings, public awareness, and support services to $1 billion annually by the end of his first term in office. They will also continue to work with parents, physicians, providers, researchers, and schools to create opportunities and effective solutions for people with ASD.
Education Expand Early Childhood Education: Research shows that half of low-income children start school up to two years behind their peers in preschool skills and that these early achievement gaps continue throughout elementary school. Obama has been a champion of early childhood education since his years in the Illinois legislature, where he led the effort to create the Illinois Early Learning Council. Obama has introduced a comprehensive "Zero to Five" plan to provide critical supports to young children and their parents by investing $10 billion per year to create: Early Learning Challenge Grants to stimulate and help fund state "zero to five" efforts; quadruple the number of eligible children for Early Head Start and increase Head Start funding and improve quality for both; work to ensure all children have access to pre-school; provide affordable and highquality child care that will promote child development and ease the burden on working families; and create a Presidential Early Learning Council to increase collaboration and program coordination across federal, state, and local levels.
Expand High-Quality Afterschool Opportunities: Expanding access to high-quality afterschool programs will help children learn and strengthen a broad range of skills and provide relief to working parents who have to juggle child care and work responsibilities. A recent survey found that African American parents have a higher demand for afterschool than other parents and struggle more to find quality afterschool options. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will double funding for the main federal support for afterschool programs, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, to serve one million more children. They will include measures to maximize performance and effectiveness across grantees nationwide. They will also expand summer learning opportunities to serve an additional one million children each year.
Reform and Fund No Child Left Behind: The goal of the No Child Left Behind Act is the right one - ensuring that all children can meet high standards - but the law has significant flaws that need to be addressed. Barack Obama believes it was wrong to force teachers, principals and schools to accomplish the goals of No Child Left Behind without the necessary resources. We have failed to provide high-quality teachers in every classroom and failed to support and pay for those teachers. Barack Obama and Joe Biden understand that NCLB has demoralized our educators, broken its promise to our children and must be changed in a fundamental way. They will work with mayors and state leaders to ensure that NCLB reform addresses the need for a broader range of assessments and an accountability system that focuses on improving schools, rather than punishing them.
Low-Income Families Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit: In the Illinois State Senate, Obama led the successful effort to create the $100 million Illinois Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). As president, Obama will reward work by increasing the number of working parents eligible for EITC benefits, increasing the benefit available to parents who support their children through child support payments, increasing the benefit for families with three or more children and reducing the EITC marriage penalty which hurts low-income families. Under the Obama- Biden plan, full-time workers making minimum wage would get an EITC benefit up to $555, more than three times greater than the $175 benefit they get today. If the workers are responsibly supporting their children on child support, the Obama plan would give those workers a benefit of $1,110. The Obama-Biden plan would also increase the EITC benefit for those families that are most likely to be in poverty - families with three or more children.
Strengthen Fatherhood and Families: Since 1960, the rate of American children without fathers in their lives has quadrupled. Obama has re-introduced the Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Families Act to remove some of the government penalties on married families, crack down on men avoiding child support payments, ensure that support payments go to families instead of state bureaucracies, fund support services for fathers and their families, and support domestic violence prevention efforts. As president, Obama will sign this bill into law and continue to implement innovative measures to strengthen families.
Expand the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit: The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit provides too little relief to families that struggle to afford child care expenses. Currently the credit only covers up to 35 percent of the first $3,000 of child care expenses a family incurs for one child and the first $6,000 for a family with two or more children. And the credit is not refundable, which means that upper-income families disproportionately benefit while families who make under $50,000 a year receive less than a third of the tax credit. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will reform the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit by making it refundable and allowing low-income families to receive up to a 50 percent credit for their child care expenses.
Support Parents with Young Children: Barack Obama and Joe Biden will expand the highly-successful Nurse-Family Partnership to all low-income, first-time mothers. The Nurse-Family Partnership provides home visits by trained registered nurses to low-income expectant mothers and their families. The trained nurses use proven methods to help improve the mental and physical health of the family by providing counseling on substance abuse, creating and achieving personal goals, and effective methods of nurturing children. Proven benefits of these types of programs include improved women's prenatal health, a reduction in childhood injuries, fewer unintended subsequent pregnancies, increased father involvement and women's employment, reduced use of welfare and food stamps, and increased children's school readiness. Researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis concluded that these programs produced an average of five dollars in savings for every dollar invested and produced more than $28,000 in net savings for every high-risk family enrolled in the program. The Obama-Biden plan would assist approximately 570,000 first-time mothers each year.
Expand Paid Sick Days: Half of all private sector workers have no paid sick days and the problem is worse for employees in low-paying jobs, where less than a quarter receive any paid sick days. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will require that employers provide seven paid sick days per year.
Support and Supplement Our Struggling Foster Care System: The foster care system is failing children who need help the most. Barack Obama and Joe Biden recognize that part of the solution is to increase the quantity of foster homes, improve training for foster parents and increase coordination between law enforcement and child welfare officials so that abuse can be stopped. Young adults graduating from foster care often have a rough time living independently. One study found that within two to four years only 54 percent had completed high school, less than half had jobs and 25 percent had experienced homelessness. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will invest in innovative new job training and workforce development programs that will provide those in foster care with the skills necessary to compete in the modern American workforce.
PROTECT WOMEN AND CHILDREN
Reduce Domestic Violence: One in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will protect women and children from domestic violence. He introduced legislation to combat domestic violence by providing $25 million a year for partnerships between domestic violence prevention organizations and fatherhood or marriage programs to train staff in domestic violence services, provide services to families affected by domestic violence, and to develop best practices in domestic violence prevention.
Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect: There are nearly three million annual reports of child abuse and neglect. The tragedy of child abuse claims thousands of innocent lives each year, while ruining millions more. Moreover, it has been estimated that the direct cost to taxpayers of child protection and foster care is $20 billion, while another $100 billion is spent on issues related to child abuse, including crime, prisons, mental health, special education, medical care, and drug abuse. Barack Obama and Joe Biden are committed to preventing child abuse and supports proven and effective means to combat the tragedy of child abuse.
Register and Restrict Sex Offenders: Barack Obama helped create a national sex offender database through his cosponsorship of Dru's Law. The law was incorporated into the larger Adam Walsh Child Protection Act, a measure Obama also supported. Obama also cosponsored the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act. The bill is set to bring stiffer penalties to bear against those who commit sex crimes against children under the age of 12. It also creates an online National Sex Offender Public Registry and gives grants to local law enforcement agencies for prevention and investigation. Obama supports the KIDS Act, which requires sex offenders to provide their Internet identifiers (email addresses, instant messaging tags, etc.) for use in the National Sex Offender Public Registry.
Protect Meth's Youngest Victims: Children living in or visiting methamphetamine labs not only face great physical danger from chemical contamination and fire and explosions, but they are at a heightened risk for abuse, neglect, and continued social and developmental problems. Barack Obama cosponsored legislation providing assistance to the children of methamphetamine abusers in the U.S. Senate, and he will continue to support meth's youngest victims as president.