As a mother, I know that parents have an increasingly difficult job in today's world. The economic pressures, the time demands, the many outside influences that affect even the youngest children - all of these, and more, make this an especially challenging time for America's families.
All parents want to protect their children and make sure they have the best possible chance to grow up and succeed in life. And today American families are facing new challenges. An ever-increasing number of families find themselves bearing the responsibility of caring for their aging parents at the same time they are trying to raise their children. Because of these dual responsibilities, they are known as the "sandwich generation."
Ultimately, our national well-being - our economic prosperity and our quality of life - depends on the strength of our families. It is a legitimate function of our government to support strong families and make sure parents have the tools they need to protect their children and do what's best for them.
As Minnesota's U.S. Senator, I've worked hard to make sure that our children grow up healthy and safe and that our families have the resources they need to deal successfully with today's challenges. During my time in the Senate I have worked to:
Protect children from unsafe products. Americans need to be able to trust that the products we buy every day are safe. However, public concern has grown about the safety of many imported products from China - whether they are toys or charm bracelets, seafood or pet food, tires or toothpaste. In March 2008, the Senate passed the Consumer Product Safety Commission Reform Act, the most sweeping reform of consumer product safety law in decades. This legislation will give the Consumer Product Safety Commission the additional resources and staff it needs to enforce the law and keep consumers safe. As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, I authored three provisions of the legislation - to eliminate lead in children's products; to establish mandatory federal safety standards for durable infant and toddler products such as high chairs and car safety seats; and to require toy manufacturers to stamp "batch numbers" on their products to help parents identify products if they have been recalled. The law also requires more vigorous testing of every children's product sold in our stores. The House passed a similar measure in December, 2007. I serve on the House-Senate conference committee to produce final legislation, and we are hoping to get the bill to the President's desk soon.
Protect children from unsafe swimming pools. At the end of 2007, President Bush signed into law legislation that I helped write to improve safety in the nation's swimming pools. I took a personal interest in the issue after a horrific accident in the summer of 2007, when six-year-old Abigail Taylor of Edina was partly disemboweled by the powerful suction of a wading pool drain. After months of surgeries and hospital care, Abigail died from complications from those injuries. It turns out this was not an isolated incident. Government statistics show dozens of cases in which children were injured or trapped by the powerful suction of these pool drains. Yet legislation correcting the problem had been stalled in Congress for years. After consulting the Taylor family and national child safety experts, I wrote two crucial amendments to the pool safety legislation which had been pending before Congress. One made tough new safety standards retroactive to existing pools that are intended for public use and the other required public pools with single drains to install the latest drain safety technology. One of my proudest moments as a Senator was the night when I called Abigail's father, Scott Taylor, to tell him we had adopted the legislation and the President had signed it into law.
Assist families in caring for seniors. Almost 10 million seniors today need some type of long-term care. While nursing homes and paid care providers serve our elderly in some situations, the vast majority of elder care comes from informal care givers - more than half of whom are adult children taking care of their parents. On the Joint Economic Committee, I have taken the lead on this critical issue. I have introduced the Americans Giving Care to Elders Act, which would establish a federal tax credit to assist with the costs of caring for an aging family member and would help expand programs such as the National Family Caregivers Support Program, which provide education, guidance and support to people taking care of loved ones with long-term care needs.
But these achievements are just a down payment on my work for children and families. In coming months, I will work to:
Provide working families the flexibility they need to care for their children without losing their jobs. As a former prosecutor, I know there are criminals who are intent on victimizing children. Federal support is important to local law enforcement and the criminal justice system to make sure sex offenders can be tracked, because we know they are not afraid to move across state lines. That is why I supported the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Database Act, which establishes a publicly-available national database of sex offenders. I also support full funding of the COPS Program, which has a proven record of reducing crime by helping local police departments put more officers on the streets to protect our communities and families.
Keep our children safe from criminal predators. As the capabilities for high-tech communication grow, we must be vigilant about the new harms that may lurk for our children. I support the V-Chip, Internet filters and other new technology that give parents greater control over what their children see on TV and what they can do on the Internet. As a cosponsor of the KIDS Act of 2007, I am fighting for additional protections to safeguard children against online sexual predators.
Give parents more tools and information so they can protect their children in this new high-tech, multimedia world. As the capabilities for high-tech communication grow, we must be vigilant about the new harms that may lurk for our children. I support the V-Chip, Internet filters and other new technology that gives parents greater control over what their children see on TV and what they can do on the Internet. As a cosponsor of the KIDS Act of 2007, I am fighting for additional protections to safeguard children against online sexual predators.