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 advocate tirelessly on their behalf.

Understanding how the candidates plan to invest in kids

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. 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, we are 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, our local staff and volunteers engage with campaigns on a regular basis. It’s more important than ever to understand how candidates plan to invest in kids – no matter who they are or where they were born. Here’s what you need to know about how candidates can invest in three key issues that prioritize kids. 

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. The president plays a critical leadership role through federal funding requests, proposed changes to the tax code and providing incentives to state and local agencies to work together.

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. At a fundamental level, Save the Children and SCAN believe that any proposals relative to early childhood education and care must address the following priorities:

Access– Access to pre-kindergarten should be universal. Early learning and care options must be available to all families with children from birth to age 5, 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.

Affordability – 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.

Quality – 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.

Issue 2: Serving the Most Vulnerable Children

Around the world, children have a better chance than any time in history to grow up healthy, safe and educated. These advances help create a safer, more prosperous world for Americans and all children. U.S. global leadership and foreign assistance play a significant role in contributing to global progress on reducing poverty and improving the lives of children and their communities around the world. At just 1% of the federal budget, U.S. foreign assistance strengthens countries’ capacity to address their own development needs.

At a time of important progress for children around the world, many still face tough challenges. 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. And despite progress overall, we are witnessing an increasing number of children living in harm’s way. According to Save the Children, 420 million children – nearly 1 in 5 children worldwide – live in a conflict zone, an increase of nearly 30 million children from 2016. At a fundamental level, Save the Children and SCAN believe that any proposals related to foreign aid must focus on girls and children affected by conflict and must address the following priorities:

U.S. Leadership on Global Issues – 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.

Impacts of Conflict – 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 to account. The U.S. and other governments also have an important role to play in taking practical action to protect children and support their recovery. Education and mental health and psychosocial support are two key ways to help children heal and recover from the trauma of war and secure their futures.

Empowering Girls – 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. Yet, women and girls are disproportionately impacted by gender inequality. 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. We must invest in girls’ leadership and civic participation as part of an overall strategy to support inclusive and stable democracies. Further, 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.

Issue 3: Treating children at the U.S. Southern border humanely

Violence, gangs and deep-rooted poverty have driven children and families from the Northern Triangle – El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras – to undertake a dangerous journey north, seeking 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, either accompanied or unaccompanied, are a vulnerable population that 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.  This process should facilitate adequate child participation without discrimination, involve decision-makers with relevant areas of expertise, and balance all relevant factors in order to assess the best outcome. At a fundamental level, Save the Children and SCAN believe that any proposals relative to children and families at the border must address the following priorities:

Child Protection and Welfare – The detention of children, either with or without families, is detrimental to their wellbeing. Children entering the U.S. should be processed and provided with safe alternatives to detention like community-based programs or foster care. The human rights protections for children should be codified in accordance with the Flores Settlement Agreement. 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.

Asylum Access – 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.

Root Causes – The migration crisis at the U.S. southern border is the result of instability and violence in the Northern Triangle 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.

Join us in advocating for children

We believe Save the Children’s 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 powerful, most effective voice for kids. SCAN works with advocates across the country to elevate these children’s issues at all levels of government. In the past four years, we have expanded our staff, Volunteer Leaders and Student Ambassadors to 14 states, while growing a dedicated grassroots network of more than 300,000 child advocates in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

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