America earned a lackluster C- grade on child well-being, according to a national report card released yesterday by First Focus and Save the Children. Artist ambassador for Save the Children, Jennifer Garner, joined Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn., retired) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) to announce the findings of America’s Report Card 2012: Children in the U.S.
“The number of Americans living in poverty remains at a historic high, with nearly one in four children knowing all too well what it means to go without,” said Garner. “Childhood poverty sets children up for failure in school, impacts their health, and can pre-determine the course of their lives. So why, then, are children being left out of the conversation during an election season in which the economy is the primary issue? We need to do better for our kids.”
Commissioned by Sen. Dodd and Sen. Casey, America’s Report Card provides a holistic picture of unmet needs in five areas of a child’s life: economic security, early childhood education, K-12 education, permanence and stability, and health and safety. The report also urges the American people to take action to boost children’s chances for success in school and life: vote in November’s general election for candidates who support investments in children; hold elected officials accountable for commitments to help children succeed; and engage with other local leaders to improve the lives of children in their own communities.
More than 300 policymakers and congressional staff, children’s advocates, and concerned citizens attended the report’s launch. Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus, described the grading system and provided an overview of the 2012 grades. Mark Shriver, senior vice president of Save the Children’s U.S. Programs, urged our country’s leaders to summon the political will to end childhood poverty by investing in early childhood education, a key to a brighter future for our children, and our country.
“Children can’t appear on cable talk shows, contribute to political campaigns or vote. Politicians know this and listen to the loudest voices in the political arena,” said Sen. Dodd. “With the election quickly approaching, you can be the voice for children. This November, cast a ballot for candidates who will put children first. And after the election, no matter which candidates win, it is up to you to hold them accountable to ensure children are a legislative and budgetary priority.”
“The future of our nation rests in our ability to give every child the opportunity to succeed,” said Sen. Casey. “That is why I have fought to build support for initiatives to increase access to early learning programs and to ensure children have access to healthy food. Preparing children for the future must be part of our strategy to continue to grow the economy and create jobs. By giving our children the best shot at success, we can also boost the nation’s productivity, increase prosperity and fuel competitiveness.”
“The presidential candidates this year are talking about building an even greater, more prosperous and more competitive nation. And yet, during the first presidential debate, neither candidate mentioned the poverty epidemic affecting the lives of 16 million children in America,” said Shriver. “Reducing the deficit is not mutually exclusive from reducing poverty. Childhood poverty costs our nation $500 billion per year. If the candidates are truly serious about building a stronger America, then a meaningful debate about ending childhood poverty must become part of the conversation.”
“We grade kids all the time,” said Lesley. “It’s time to take responsibility as a nation for the decisions that determine whether kids can succeed. We can’t be satisfied with a C-, but raising the grade means getting involved, voting for kids, and holding politicians accountable.”
The report card assigned the nation grades in five key domains of a child’s life:
Economic security: D, based on the number of children living in poverty, experiencing food insecurity and unstable housing.
Early childhood: C-, based on early learning program availability and enrollment, as well as access to child care.
K-12 education: C-, based on children’s math, reading and science levels, school resources, the number of at-risk youth, and educational attainment.
Permanency and stability: D, based on the well-being of children impacted by the child welfare, juvenile justice, and immigration systems.
Health and safety: C+, based on the state of health insurance coverage for children, access to health care and preventive services, public health and safety, and environmental health.