What Message are We Sending?

July 5, 2016

A public opinion poll released on June 29, 2016, asks, “Should the government increase investments in the health, education, and nutrition of the nation’s children?”

To me, the answer to this question seems obvious, from a moral standpoint. In a nation that prides itself on liberty and justice for all, children are the most vulnerable and have basic health, social, and human needs. Every child deserves to grow up healthy, avoid exposure or victimization to violence and abuse, and to receive a quality education. Their readiness and ability to thrive in all realms of life is essential to not just their success but also to ours as a nation. My idea of our social contract is that we agree to a shared responsibility to ensure basic rights and fairness to all.

The reality is, of course, different. I live and work (and just finished college) in Baltimore, where I work with young people who are involved with the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. I see first-hand how your Zip Code affects your opportunities. I see young people striving to overcome big hurdles and a starting line that keeps shifting.

What message do we send and what type of future are we building when we fail to properly fund programs that are proven to help children and youth reach their potential? I discern the message as, “the nation isn’t willing to put its money where its mouth is” and that illustrates the true priorities and interests aren’t where they claim they are.

You invest in what you care about and what you want to see succeed. You spend your money on what you believe in. If our nation isn’t willing to prioritize the needs of families and children by increasing investments, it sends a strong message; the President and Congress do not believe in us, they don’t see value in our potential, and they don’t have a desire to see us succeed.

These were my thoughts as I read through the results of the Children’s Leadership Council/Hart Research poll. I was heartened to see a majority of my age group (Millennials) agree with me that the government is not doing enough and say it must do more.

The poll got me thinking about my peers and friends. I did a quick lunchtime poll of my co-workers, the vast majority of whom are Millennials, on their sentiments regarding public investments in families and children.

I simply asked, “Should the government be investing more to meet the needs of families and children?”

The response from the group was sudden, passionate, and prefaced by an uproar of laughter. A clear and definitive, YES the President and Congress should improve their efforts and expenditures when it comes to meeting the needs of families and children.  Several of my colleagues pointed out that we’ve got “some reconciling to do” so for such a long period of cuts and refusal to invest.

Mine is was not a scientific poll and the results may be skewed because we work at a community-based organization, where we often witness the effects of the absence or inadequacy of governmental investment in the form of hunger, lack of college affordability and attainment, deficits in child care assistance, domestic and family violence.

But the CLC poll is scientific. That’s the kind of data we need to make our case that the United States must do more to strengthen its commitment to meeting the needs of those most in need.

Given everything that’s happening, from Ferguson to Orlando to the presidential election debates, this feels like our only way to thrive and succeed as nation — one that prides itself on “liberty and justice for all.”

Learn More

The poll was commissioned by the Children's Leadership Council (CLC) and conducted by Hart Research. You can find the full poll results, a concise memo on key findings, and a toolkit to share and use the information here on the CLC site.