Congress’ urgent unfinished business for children

MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN | 12/26/2017, 8:52 a.m.
As if our fight to stop the profoundly unjust Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was not enough, we must all ...

There will be millions of families like Brooke’s in Texas and nationally. Children will miss doctor appointments and go without medication. Pregnant women will lose prenatal care. Ongoing treatments will stop. Congress must immediately reauthorize CHIP for five years without making harmful cuts in other programs serving children and families to pay for it.

Maternal and Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting Program: Pregnant women and children under 5 benefit from MIECHV in every state and territory. It has had bipartisan support since its 2010 enactment, but its services and jobs will be lost if Congress doesn’t renew it immediately. MIECHV-funded programs use evidence-based voluntary home visiting models that must demonstrate measurable improvements on at least four of six benchmarks – improvements in maternal and newborn health, reductions in abuse and neglect and childhood injuries, improved school readiness and achievement, reduction in crime or domestic violence, improved family economic self-sufficiency and referral for other community resources and supports. Families in at risk urban and rural communities facing risk factors like substance abuse or child abuse and neglect are given priority for services. MIECHV must be reauthorized for five years at least at its current funding level of $400 million.

Dreamers and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program: Dreamers and future Dreamers are young undocumented immigrants brought to this country as children who have passed background checks, gone to school, met other requirements and contribute to their communities every day though work, studies and service. They enjoy strong bipartisan support and agreement that they should not be deported. Nearly 800,000 immigrants were granted protection from deportation under DACA, which President Trump has set to end in March. Beginning March 5, 1,000 Dreamers will lose protection every day. Announcing DACA’s end, President Trump asked Congress to provide these Dreamers permanent legal status. These protections must be preserved.

Emergency Relief for Children, Families and Others Struggling from Hurricane Destruction: Children in Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are still suffering from devastating hurricanes. Children’s health and education are at great risk, especially in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Many are struggling and surviving without electricity and water and many schools remain closed. Additional emergency funding is long overdue!

Rather than crucial help for children and youths, the administration and Congress have been pushing for massive tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and powerful corporations. In this holy season celebrating the birth of a poor baby in a manger, this is a travesty. In a season when Christians believe wise and powerful men gave their gifts to a poor baby on the first Christmas, we should all tell our leaders they should give our nation’s poor, sick, and most vulnerable children the things they urgently need to survive and thrive.

Marian Wright Edelman is the president of the Children’s Defense Fund. For more information, go to http://www.childrensdefense.org.