National Children's Summit Focuses Attention on America's Children and Families
Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro (Conn.-3), a co-chair of the National Summit on America's Children, delivered the following opening remarks.
The day-long Children's Summit brings together national experts and academics to present recent scientific findings on how children's brains are shaped, how positive behaviors can be encouraged, and how investments in early childhood create success in later years. The expert panelists will focus on four subjects: the science of early childhood development; early learning; health and mental health; and income and family support. This Summit is a first step in making certain that federal policies on children reflect the latest scientific developments.
"Thank you, I am delighted to be here and so proud of the work we are doing today.
"Madame Speaker, thank you for your inspiring words and your dedication to bringing children and families once again to the forefront of our national discussion.
"Chairman Miller, Congressman Fattah, thank you for your partnership as we have worked to make this Summit a reality.
"These days, with the rising cost of living and the need to balance work and family, parents are stretched thin, struggling to make sure their children get the attention and care they deserve. In other words, these are not just children's issues, they are family issues.
"We have a moral obligation to ensure adequate family and income support so our kids can get the right start today. And as policy makers we must confront our children's issues, in a way that best addresses their entire families' needs.
"Nearly 13 million children in the United States - 18 percent of all children - live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level. Most of these children have parents who work, but low wages and unstable employment leave their families struggling to make ends meet. In my state alone there are nearly 70,000 children in low-income families
"But we will greatly increase the chances for success if we make it possible for all families with children, not just the poor, to raise their incomes and to sustain themselves in time of difficulty. A rising minimum wage, a Child Tax Credit, pay equity, paid sick days and affordable health insurance for all families are initiatives that will help all children.
"This is not a political issue, it is about looking at the facts. A child's environment affects his or her ability to learn - as well as critical social, emotional, and behavioral development. Our failure to invest in families contributes to poor physical and mental health.
"This afternoon, we will convene a panel discussion on how best to invest our families as a national community in a way that serves our children and supports their development.
"I do not believe we are going to hear about any silver bullet today: there is no simple answer. But, there are a number of critical steps we can take together - initiatives which have already proven successful at making opportunity real for more families and children.
"A brand new report from the Center for American Progress has shown the potential powerful impact of basic steps like raising the minimum wage, expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, and strengthening child care for low-income families.
"That translates into a greater chance for every child to thrive. We are going to hear about some of those efforts this afternoon - how, by strengthening families, we can responsibly create healthy, nurturing environments for our children to succeed.
"By investing in the federal Food Stamp Program, for example we can invest in better health for the more than 13 million monthly food stamp recipients who are children.
"And by helping the millions of parents who do not consistently have paid sick days, we can change the difficult equation they face when they or their child gets sick. Unlike 139 other nations, the United States does not guarantee a single day of paid sick leave to workers - not one day. The result is that nearly half of all private sector employees have no paid leave of any kind - no sick days, no personal days, nothing.
"We must improve the child tax which, under current law, fails to full cover 20 million children in working families earning too little to get the full credit. Of those affected, 7 million get no credit at all. We must make sure our tax code helps hard working families achieve the American Dream.
"At the same time, we should be fighting to close the wage gap between women and men, ensuring everyone who works hard and productively and carries a full range of family responsibilities is paid at the rate she is entitled. Closing the wage gap must be an integral part of any pro family agenda.
"Clearly there is lot for us to do. Our values tell us to lift families up and give people the tools they need to grow and thrive tomorrow - that is what this summit is about.
"As a national community, we face great challenges - challenges that the federal government has the ability, the capacity, the resources, and the moral obligation to help us meet.
"Today, right here, we also have the science and the expertise to help find the right path. The research and the talent which tells us a child's earliest experiences have a long-lasting impact on his or her development, health, achievement, and livelihood as a productive adult. Nothing could be more important."