Why Child Advocacy Matters
Helping children over one million at a time
State and local child advocates have improved the lives of millions of children. Because of their work, millions of children are healthier because they are insured through state insurance programs, low-income families often get state earned income tax credits, in many states youth that turn 18 in foster care still have food, shelter, health care and access to education, and the number of children in pre-k has grown steadily over the last decade.
But much more is needed. Far too many children today face hardships that severely limit their life chances, threatening both their well-being and our country’s future.
- More than one in five children are poor, and young children, who suffer the worst long-term consequences, are more likely to be poor.
- Seven percent of all children have no health insurance.
- One in five never graduate from high school or get a GED.
- Children of color fare significantly worse on nearly every measure of child well-being, and by 2020 more than half of all US children will be children of color.
We have a moral obligation to give every child a good start and a good chance.
It’s also simple self-interest. Studies show that by 2020 two-thirds of American jobs will require some sort of post-secondary education, but that we will have 5 million fewer people with that level of education than we will need. If we want America to be strong and prosperous, today’s children need to be prepared to be tomorrow’s doctors, business leaders and first responders, tomorrow’s leaders, workers, and innovators.
Fortunately, public policies can significantly improve outcomes for children. A growing body of research shows:
- Access to health care through public health insurance improves child health, reduces mortality, and improves educational and economic outcomes.
- The earned income tax credit and child tax credit have been shown to improve the health of children and mothers, improve school outcomes on a variety of indicators, increase college attendance, and increase work and income when those children reach adulthood.
- Children who receive food through programs such as SNAP, School meals, CACFP, and WIC are more likely to be healthy, develop normally, be ready to enter kindergarten, stay engaged in and do well in school, graduate from high school, and be healthy as an adult.
- High quality early childhood programs and family support initiatives provide a solid foundation for development and learning, help to prevent and reduce achievement gaps, and improve the likelihood of success for children throughout their lives.
Most policies that affect children are set by state and local policy makers. Two-thirds of all government funds spent on children come from states and localities and most federal programs are administered by states.
As a result, in the United States, children’s well-being and opportunities vary dramatically depending on where they were born and grew up.
- In Massachusetts only two percent of children are uninsured; in Arizona, which has eliminated its State Children’s Health Insurance program, ten percent are uninsured.
- In South Dakota, the percentage of children incarcerated is eight times higher than in Vermont.
- In Utah nearly half of all children living in female-headed households receive child support but in Hawaii, less than a fifth receive it.
- In Connecticut, two-thirds of all 3 to 4 years olds attend preschool and in DC, three-fourths, but in Nevada, only one-third.
Children need skilled professional advocates fighting for them. Children can’t lobby, can’t vote, and can’t donate to campaigns. They need a voice, and that’s what the members of the Partnership provide. Partnership members build support for better policies for children and ensure that broader public decisions are made with the needs of kids in mind.
Policymakers need what Partnership members offer: Access to nonpartisan data, analysis and organized support for solutions that work for children’s unique developmental needs. Policymakers hear from many voices representing other constituents. While hundreds of public and private organizations provide services to children, and can provide valuable perspective to policy makers, there are very few organizations that are solely dedicated to speaking up for the needs of kids in the local and state policy arena. There are even fewer that look at the needs of the whole child.
Partnership members are effective because of their skills and credibility.
Partnership members fight for the policies that will give children the best chances to become healthy, productive adults and valuable members of society.
Partnership members are:
- Known to base their recommendations on research and data
- Recognized as credible, independent and not partisan
- Skilled at bringing together diverse coalitions
- Expert at working with the media to bring children’s needs into the public eye
- Persistent, strategic and creative
The Partnership enables its members to build off each other’s successes and learn from each other’s approaches.
Advocacy offers a great return on investment. Foundation and charitable resources, when invested indirect services, can only scratch the surface of what children need. For foundations to meet their goals, they must leverage public investments. That takes advocacy. A 2012 National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy study of the impacts of foundation-funded policy advocacy, community organizing, and civic engagement , that included the work of several Partnership members, found that “the data consistently showed a high return on investment for each dollar allocated to advocacy and organizing. Every dollar grantmakers and other donors provided to organizations for these strategies reaped an average of $115 in community benefits.”
Moreover, advocacy also fosters stronger civil and human rights, and trains leaders for future endeavors, important outcomes that cannot be monetized.
Investing in child advocacy is smart, legal and essential to meeting foundation goals.
How can you support the Partnership for America’s Children and its members? For more information, contact:
Deborah Stein, Network Director
1101 14th Street NW, Suite 600
Washington, DC 20005