A Guide to Prioritizing and Investing in Kids in the 2020 Election

Children don’t vote, and they don’t contribute to political campaigns. But their voices and interests matter, just as much as any adult. That’s why Save the Children and Save the Children Action Network (SCAN) advocate tirelessly on their behalf. Together, we are committed to ensuring children here at home and around the world are the priority they deserve to be during the 2020 election.

Every Child Deserves a Bright Future

Here's how all candidates can prioritize children's rights this election.
Two pre-k students sit together at a table and read children's books.


Issue 1: Ensuring Access to High-Quality Early Education

Learning changes lives. That’s why we’re working to build bipartisan will and broad public support for universal access to high-quality early learning and child care across the United States. In the pursuit of equal opportunity for every child, our guiding principle is that all kids should have access to high-quality, affordable child care and early childhood education.

To realize this objective, all levels of government must work together – in concert with the private sector – to craft powerful policies, allocate the necessary resources, and provide the appropriate regulatory environment for such programs to flourish. 

There are many proposals that would affect large-scale change to the child care system. While we are supportive of any plan that seeks to make progress on our guiding principle, we work tirelessly in a bipartisan manner on a daily basis, recognizing that the political realities in Washington, D.C. and in state legislatures across the country require buy-in from both sides of the partisan divide.

Any proposals relative to early childhood education and care must address the following priorities:


Access to pre-kindergarten should be universal. Early learning and care options must be available to all families with children from birth to age five, regardless of their zip code or work schedule. Significant new investments need to be made to ensure there is child care and early learning infrastructure in all communities across the country. 

Additionally, access needs to be increased to critical early childhood interventions, such as child care centers, home visiting programs, and family, friend and neighbor care. Efforts should be taken to ensure that existing facilities can be improved or expanded and new programs can be built in underserved communities so parents have flexible options for care.


Ongoing need for access to early learning and child care programs, compounded by insufficient current public spending levels, has resulted in children from many low- and middle-income families being shut out from care and placed on waitlists for assistance instead. 

There must be a significant increase in direct subsidies to these families so they can afford high-quality early care and education. At the same time, innovative finance methods such as public-private partnerships, changes to the tax code and successful state programs should be expanded.


In order for children, families and society to realize the full benefits of investments in access and affordability, early learning and child care programs must be high quality. This means children are in a safe, nurturing and engaging environment.

Early childhood educators must have access to professional development opportunities and research-based best practices and curriculum. In addition, parents should be provided the resources necessary to make informed decisions about the programs that are right for their family and receive the assistance they need to enroll their child.

Two girls sit among rubble selling toys to earn money for their family after their home in Syria was bombed


Issue 2: Serving the Most Vulnerable Children

All children should be safe to learn and grow, but today, 1 in every 4 children is denied their childhood, often because of who they are or where they live. Their childhoods come to an end due to poor health, conflict, malnutrition, child marriage, or exclusion from education. Gender inequality disproportionately impacts girls, threatening their education, health and often their very survival.

Despite progress overall, we are witnessing an increasing number of children living in harm’s way. Nearly 1 in 5 children worldwide live in a conflict zone, an increase of nearly 30 million children from 2016.

Any proposals related to foreign aid must focus on girls and children affected by conflict and must address the following priorities:


Around the world, children and families face escalating challenges, thus putting a premium on strong American leadership and increased demands on our foreign assistance.

That’s why we’re calling on the next president and the 117th Congress to bolster American global leadership and continue to provide robust investments in programs impacting children around the world, particularly those most marginalized and deprived.


With nearly 1 in 5 children now living in conflict-affected areas, children increasingly bear the brunt of armed conflict and its devastating impact.

Grave violations against children that include killing and maiming, forced recruitment as armed actors, sexual violence, abduction, attacks on schools and hospitals, and denial of humanitarian access have risen a staggering 174% since 2010.

World leaders must ensure that laws protecting children in conflict are upheld and that perpetrators of violations are held accountable. 


Ensuring gender equality and empowering girls globally not only creates better outcomes for children, their families and communities, but also ensures our continued standing as a strong global leader in promoting inclusive democracy, human rights and equality across the globe. 

Countries that empower women and girls are more stable and have stronger economies.

Despite comprising over 50% of the world’s population, women are underrepresented at all levels of public sector decision-making.

Engaging adolescent girls more in civil and political activities contribute to increased political participation and women’s leadership around the world – they become engaged citizens and voters, with higher levels of ambition for future leadership positions in both politics and the private sector.

U.S. government foreign assistance agencies must maintain and implement robust gender equality policies and strategies, including mandates to conduct gender analysis throughout U.S. foreign assistance efforts, to ensure we are tackling the barriers to girls’ empowerment through global education, health, economic empowerment and other international assistance programs.

A mother sits on a cot while her 1-year-old sleeps in a respite center in New Mexico.


Issue 3: Keep Children Safe at the U.S Southern Border and Uphold Their Right to Seek Asylum

Violence, gangs and deep-rooted poverty have driven children and families from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to seek safety and protection in the U.S.

After their harrowing journey, these children and families are often met by even more dangers at the border – all while children’s rights are severely violated. We have seen firsthand that immigration policies and enforcement procedures, including the arrest, detention and separation of children from their families, can have traumatic impacts on children.

Children face hardship, uncertainty and danger during their journeys to the U.S.

Any government official coming into contact with children should receive thorough child-protection training and be able to spot victims of trafficking or exploitation.

Children in the custody of the U.S. government should have access to basic human needs like water, food, shelter and medical treatment. Children should not be returned to countries in which their wellbeing is endangered.

The best interest of the child should be the main consideration in all immigration decisions. We believe that any proposals relative to children and families at the border must address the following priorities:


The detention of children, either with or without families, is detrimental to their well-being.

Children entering the U.S. should be processed and provided with safe alternatives to detention like community-based programs or foster care. Children should not be removed from their families, and certainly not to serve as a deterrent to immigration or asylum. All efforts should be made to reunite separated families, and the proper social and emotional support should be provided to ensure that any traumatic experiences are properly addressed.


Access to asylum is a basic human right and any policy that infringes upon this right must be repealed.

Children and families must be allowed to make asylum claims regardless of where they seek asylum – whether an official point of entry, their country of origin or in the United States. These claims should be expedited through a fair and transparent process, which involves the guarantee of legal representation.

In accordance with U.S. and international law, children and families should not be returned to countries where they may face violence or persecution.


The migration crisis at the U.S. southern border is the result of instability and violence in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico. A robust investment of targeted foreign aid should be provided to address the violence, poverty, gang activity, trafficking and the myriad of other causes that force the mass fleeing we see in the region.

Proactive measures like peacebuilding, investment in education and infrastructure, and anti-corruption initiatives are the only way of stopping the humanitarian crisis in the region.

Save the Children Action Network:
The Voice for Kids

Founded in 2014 as an advocacy affiliate of Save the Children, SCAN is building bipartisan political will to ensure all children in the United States and around the world thrive.

Whether it is ensuring access to high-quality early childhood education programs, calling for investment in the world's most vulnerable children, protecting children at our southern border and in conflict zones around the world, ensuring girls have a  fair chance and more, SCAN is committed to ensuring a better tomorrow for our next generation.

From the early presidential caucus and primary states to traditional battlegrounds and everywhere in between, SCAN’s local staff and volunteers engage with campaigns on a regular basis.

Join Us in Prioritizing and Investing in Kids this Election

Save the Children’s more than 100-year legacy of changing children’s lives and securing their futures, coupled with SCAN’s unprecedented network of grassroots supporters across the country, uniquely position us as the most effective voice for kids.

We’re calling on all candidates and elected officials to join us in making powerful change for children by prioritizing and investing in kids in the 2020 election. Our future depends on it.


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