The “State of America’s Children/Youth” is Discouraging

February 12, 2013

In State of the Union, President Needs to Focus on Children/Youth

In “Hear Our Voice,” Children/Youth Offer their Solutions for Improving the State of the Union

As the President readies to deliver the State of the Union Address tomorrow night, advocates are delivering a “discouraging” assessment of the “State of the Union” for children and youth.

To set a Children/Youth Agenda for the new term, the Children’s Leadership Council (CLC) and Spark Action produced a video recently that features the unscripted voices of youth, aged 5 to 25, asking the President to “Hear Our Voice” and telling our country’s leaders what they think needs to be fixed right now, and why. Click here for video.

“The ‘State of the Union’ for America’s Children/Youth is discouraging,” said Alan Houseman, Chairman of the CLC, the nation’s largest coalition of child and youth organizations, based in Washington, DC. “The ‘State of America’s Future’ is tied to the well-being of our children both now and in the future. Our leaders need to address the issues raised in ‘Hear Our Voice’ or the future will be bleak.”

Among the issues the children and youth discuss in the video – college affordability, gun control, hunger, health care, K-12 education – need to be addressed in the State of the Union with real goals in mind to improve the country’s future. In America today:

  • One in five children go hungry every day;
  • 22 percent live in poverty;
  • Nearly 700,000 are abused or neglected every year; yet, nearly 40 percent of the children whose maltreatment is substantiated receive no services – not home visiting, therapy, foster care or anything else;
  • Nearly 10 percent do not have health insurance (7 million);
  • Nearly two-thirds of fourth-graders and more than two-thirds of eighth graders cannot read or do math at grade level;
  • Only 14 percent of three-year-olds and 40 percent of four-year-olds eligible to be served by Head Start are enrolled in early childhood education programs due to a lack of funding;
  • Two-thirds of students who earn four-year bachelor’s degrees are graduating with an average student loan debt of more than $25,000, and 1-in-10 borrowers now graduate owing more than $54,000 in loans.

In 2012, Congress spent about 8 percent of the budget on children, including about 1.2% on education, and debate is focused on further cutbacks in domestic programs.

“Every child deserves a chance at a healthy, successful life, regardless of economic circumstances,” said Caitlin Johnson, co-founder & managing director of SparkAction, a journalism and advocacy site to mobilize action by and for young people. “We need to preserve the interests of the next generation of Americans, and we can start by listening to what they have to say about the issues that affect them the most. As President Obama lays out his plans for the next four years, we hope this video will continue to raise awareness of issues that concern young people and give them a voice in Washington.”

The video concludes with a call to give youth “a seat at the table” to share their policy solutions by creating a Presidential Youth Council. Such a Council will give young people opportunities to bring the issues they care about directly to policymakers in Washington, and help shape the policies and programs that affect their lives.

The video features students from elementary, middle and high schools in Boston, New York and Washington, DC – The Academy of the Pacific Rim Charter Public School, Boston Renaissance Charter Public School, Wilson High School, and School of the Future —and young people from across the country who shared their ideas in video format.

This is a campaign of SparkAction and the Children’s Leadership Council, a coalition of child advocates representing over 50 leading national policy and advocacy organizations who are working everyday to improve the health, education and well-being of children and youth in order to prepare them for school, work, and life.