Posts Tagged ‘ Too Small to Fail ’

New Ad Campaign Aims to Combat Child Poverty, Protect Child Health

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

A new national “movement” called “Too Small to Fail” launched Wednesday, pledging to use the power of media and advertising to raise awareness of the growing needs of children in a nation that is, organizers say, too focused on the big problems of the economy and not focused enough on the consequences of that economy for its smallest citizens. More than 16 million kids now live at or below the poverty line, the highest number of children in poverty in 50 years.

The campaign was created by the nonprofit organization The Center for the Next Generation, and it is hoping to call attention to a number of financial and health-related problems facing American kids, including:

  • More than one-quarter of our children have chronic health conditions such as obesity and asthma, a doubling since 1991;
  • American students – even those from educated families – are lagging far behind international competitors in math, science, and reading, and risk losing their edge in the highly competitive global marketplace;
  • More than half of students from middle-income families who score highest on their 8th grade reading and math tests don’t complete college, undermining their social mobility and future income security;
  • Two-thirds of students completing college or other post-secondary education or training are burdened with heavy debt, limiting their ability to build middle-class lives.

The campaign will urge government, business, and community organizations alike to take steps to help families live more financially and emotionally stable lives. Parents magazine and Parents.com are among the many media partners participating in the campaign, and an initial ad is set to air during cable television programs that depict children in danger.

For more, visit the campaign on Facebook  (http://www.facebook.com/2smalltofail) or the Too Small to Fail website. Or watch the video below for a brief outline of the campaign and its purpose and goals.

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Are Romney and Obama Talking About the Things That Matter to Parents?

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

Over the next few months, the editors of Parents.com will report on hot-button election issues that American families face today, from healthcare to education. In the spirit of offering diverse perspectives on the election, we’ve chosen three moms from across the political spectrum to be guest bloggers on Parents News Now. Each one of them will offer a unique take on the topics that they–and you!–are most passionate about. (Read the entire blog series.)

By Amy Julia Becker

My day as a mom doesn’t involve much thought about our government. I think about packing lunches for school, wiping counters, getting our kids dressed in clothes that are somewhat appropriate for the weather outside. I think about how many minutes of television William (age 4) has already watched today. I think about whether I’m being consistent in my discipline and expectations for Marilee (20 months), our third child, who is rather inclined to get away with, well, everything. I think about how Penny (age 6 ½), who has Down syndrome, is doing in school–will she control her hands, will she eat her carrot sticks at lunch, will she make friends? I think about the dozens of emails in my inbox, our cat with hyperthyroidism, the rusty spot on the door of the minivan that really needs attention.

I don’t think much about tax policy, job creation, teachers unions, national defense, or public health. And I suspect that neither Romney nor Obama spends much time thinking about chores and report cards and rusty minivans. I certainly hope they don’t.

Although I don’t spend my days thinking about the government, I do have concerns about how the outcome of our next election will affect my family. At a luncheon hosted by CNN and Parents last June, I was part of a group of moms that discussed various election issues. It was clear that many of us care about having a president who can fix the educational system, address environmental hazards, and implement economic policies that enable job creation. Similarly, in a survey conducted by the Center for the Next Generation and Parents, “74 percent of parents say the government is not doing enough for children.” The authors of the report detailing the same survey called upon Obama and Romney to address the “concerns of parents” in tomorrow’s debate about domestic policy.

Neither Romney nor Obama has made educational reform or other issues related to kids the center of their campaigns. Both have instead made the economy the focal point of this election. They have different proposals for addressing economic woes–Romney follows his party line in calling for keeping both taxes and government spending low, although he is vague about the specifics of how to do so. Obama promotes the agenda of the past four years–raising taxes on the top income brackets and continuing to spend as an act of financial stimulus while “trimming fat” from the national budget. And although parents might complain that neither politician has focused enough on issues related to children, economic issues are what matter most to parents right now.

The recent survey showed that “91 percent of parents believe that the lack of jobs that pay enough to support a family is a serious problem facing America’s children,” and, in a departure from historical norms, “When asked to choose between an extra $10,000 per year or an extra hour every day of quality time with their children, two-thirds choose the money.” In other words, the biggest concern parents face is the economy, exactly the topic both candidates highlight every day on the campaign trail.

When it comes to our presidential candidates, the problem doesn’t lie with an unwillingness to address the concerns of parents and children. The problem lies with an unwillingness, on the part of the candidates and the American public, to address the real problems within our national budget. As Michael Grunwald recently wrote in a cover article for TIME (“One Nation on Welfare”), “The 2012 election is shaping up as a debate over Big Government, but it is only loosely tethered to the reality of Big Government. The vast majority of federal spending goes to defense, health care, and Social Security plus interest payments on the debt we’ve run up paying for defense, health care, and Social Security. Nondefense discretionary spending–Washingtonese for “everything else,” from the FBI to the TSA to the center for grape genetics–amounts to only 12 percent of the budget.”

The candidates don’t need to be talking first and foremost about education reform or child welfare. They don’t need to be thinking about the things parents are thinking about on a day to day basis. But in order to address the needs of the nation, which very much includes the needs of parents and of the next generation, the candidates need to do more than pontificate about reducing the deficit and providing sound economic policy.

They need instead to articulate reductions in defense spending and policy changes to our longstanding and beneficial entitlement programs–Medicare and Social Security. The boldness to ensure security and health for the next generation of children rests upon conversations that have very little immediate connection to my car that needs to go to the shop or Penny’s behavioral chart at school or another box of macaroni and cheese. I’ll be tuning in on Wednesday night to see if either Obama or Romney has any concrete solutions to the economic problems that concern us all.

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Where are the Moms in the White House? (OPINION)

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Over the next few months, the editors of Parents.com will report on hot-button election issues that American families face today, from healthcare to education. In the spirit of offering diverse perspectives on the election, we’ve chosen three moms from across the political spectrum to be guest bloggers on Parents News Now. Each one of them will offer a unique take on the topics that they–and you!–are most passionate about. (Read the entire blog series.)

By Amy Julia Becker

The political conventions of 2012 made one thing clear–both parties want to woo the moms of America. As Lisa Belkin pointed out in the midst of the Republican convention, in his convention speech, “Mitt Romney used some version of the word ‘mom’ 14 times.” Romney’s mom-laced speech came after both Paul Ryan and Ann Romney had courted the moms of our nation as well. Ann Romney explained that the moms “always work a little harder” than anyone else, and she said there are some things the men just can’t understand. The Democrats followed with Michelle Obama’s powerful words about what it means to be an American, which ended with a proud declaration that her most important title is still “Mom in Chief.”

Both Ann Romney and Michelle Obama praised their husbands, and they painted similar portraits of family life. They described marriages that began with some degree of financial duress–the Romney’s dining room table was an ironing board, Barack Obama’s most prized possession a coffee table he had found in a dumpster. They both called upon memories of their husbands years ago to help us imagine these men without the trappings of fame and power and fortune. They extolled their husbands as fathers, and then they returned to their appeal to the mothers of this nation. There was something in those speeches for everyone, but it was the moms who were praised, and the moms who were being courted.

Moreover, both women implied that there is wisdom in being a mom, that moms know something about leadership, about values, about what matters to this nation, and about how to work hard to achieve goals.

Of the 15 members of Obama’s cabinet, four are women, and two are mothers. Hillary Clinton, one of the moms, has already announced her intention to end her tenure as Secretary of State after the election. And both she and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius have grown children. The dads on the cabinet include at least four who have school-aged children. Romney has begun preparations to form a cabinet, although he has not named his choices yet. But his transition team and circle of close advisors rarely include moms.

So why are there so few moms on Obama’s cabinet? And why so few advising Romney? If moms are so great, and so valuable, to both parties, why aren’t more of them in official positions of influence?

In the Atlantic a few months back, Princeton Professor Anne-Marie Slaughter wrote an article in which she explained her decision to go back to Princeton rather than continue working for Hillary Clinton in the State Department. In Why Women Still Can’t Have It All, Slaughter describes the cultural and societal forces that make it difficult for women to be involved in the lives of their children and climb the ladder towards professional success, particularly when it comes to jobs within the highest reaches of the federal government.

Slaughter identifies practical solutions: changing the cultural expectations surrounding when and where both men and women work, placing a higher value as a culture on time spent with children, and recognizing that influential positions within government might only be possible after children have left the nest.

But she also concludes that including moms in the highest reaches of government is not up to moms alone: “If women are ever to achieve real equality as leaders, then we have to stop accepting male behavior and male choices as the default and the ideal. We must insist on changing social policies and bending career tracks to accommodate our choices, too. We have the power to do it if we decide to, and we have many men standing beside us.”

Ann Romney and Michelle Obama spoke on behalf of their husbands when they praised the moms of America and extolled their own roles as mothers. And yet neither mentioned social policies like paternity leave or incentives for flexible work that might allow more moms to faithfully raise their children while also advancing their careers. Government policy alone will not change the number of mothers in the halls of power. But both parties have an opportunity to couple their rhetoric about moms with policy measures. Both parties could offer policies to support a stable family structure in which women are not on their own to raise their children as well as an economic system that provides means for women to advance their careers even in the midst of PTA meetings and baseball games.

This election centers on the economy and the role of government. But both parties should also pay attention to the moms, not just through rhetorical flourishes at the conventions, but also by championing their involvement in structuring governmental policy. Whether or not Michelle Obama remains the Mom in Chief, we can hope the election of 2012 brings more moms into positions of power within the White House.

Read more opinions from Amy Julia Becker

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What Would Romney or Obama Teach My Kids About Economics? (OPINION)

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Over the next few months, the editors of Parents.com will report on hot-button election issues that American families face today, from healthcare to education. In the spirit of offering diverse perspectives on the election, we’ve chosen three moms from across the political spectrum to be guest bloggers on Parents News Now. Each one of them will offer a unique take on the topics that they–and you!–are most passionate about. (Read the entire blog series.)

By Amy Julia Becker

The election of 2012 is supposed to be all about the money. We’ve heard about Mitt Romney’s tax returns (he paid 14 percent in taxes on hundreds of millions of dollars in income) and Paul Ryan’s budget plan (which calls for a 16 percent decrease in spending on the poor, for instance) and President Obama’s “socialism” (based largely upon his support of universal health care). Although the rhetorical jabs lobbied at both sides should probably be dismissed as caricatures of what these men actually propose when it comes to economic policy, this focus upon the economic health of our nation has led me to wonder who I should vote for in November. And one way for me to try to answer that question is to consider what I want to teach my children about the intersection of work, money, and ethics.

Our kids aren’t old enough to think about money on an abstract level. They know that money buys things, but they don’t really know that it comes from a paycheck. In fact, they’ve more often been the recipients of money that comes from gifts–a twenty dollar bill from a grandparent on their birthdays, the man at the local coffee shop who always gives them a few coins, the tooth fairy who leaves a dollar under Penny’s pillow (until she decided to stop that strange practice by writing a note: Dear Tooth Fairy, Don’t come. Ever.).

But I know that the practical and daily decisions my husband and I make about money could make a lasting difference in our children’s understanding of the value of work and the role of generosity, not only in their own lives but in our culture at large. On the one hand, I want them to understand that working hard, by which I mean persevering at a task even when you don’t feel like it, is a worthwhile enterprise. I want them to understand that when Dad gets up and goes to the office in the morning, or when Mom hires a babysitter to sit in front of her computer and type an essay, those hours provide the income that allows for new shoes and piano lessons and lunch at the food court at the mall. But then I think about their grandmother, my mother, who worked at a paying job for only a few hours every week. And I want them to understand that her “work” in raising a family without direct financial compensation is just as valuable as their grandfather’s work sitting in a desk and taking conference calls at the office.

To make matters more complicated, I want my children to understand that hard work isn’t all it takes to create economic success. Our oldest daughter Penny has Down syndrome. And although there are times when she’s as recalcitrant or lazy as any of the rest of us, I can generally say that she works harder than her brother and sister to learn just about anything. She’s had some triumphs–she is this close to tying her shoes after months of practice, she can read any children’s book put into her six-year old hands after years of poring over those pages, and she experienced the joy of performing after she worked hard to memorize her routine for ballet class. But at the end of the day, her hard work will never produce the same results as William’s, at least not in the eyes of a culture that measures individuals according to their economic productivity.

I not only want to instill in my children the value of hard work, but the importance of forming a community that recognizes the inherent worth of every individual independent of economic productivity. I want to teach them to give generously to others without judgment, without assuming that the recipient needs the gift as a result of negligence or laziness or moral failure. Quite frankly, I want to teach them to be generous even in the face of laziness or immorality, and I want to teach them that even their own hard work comes in part because they have been given so much to begin with. My kids are growing up with economic stability that not only provides them with their material needs but also offers me the freedom to work part time and spend lots of time with them. They have the benefit of two married parents who love each other. They live in a “language-rich environment” with a host of immediate and extended family members who have been to college and speak English. Whatever hard work they do will begin from a position of strength that has little to do with ethics and much to do with the circumstances of their births.

My dual hopes–that my kids would believe both in the individual responsibility to work hard and to care for others in their community without judgment–leave me somewhat at a loss when it comes to the current crop of political candidates. It leaves me wishing that President Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” had translated into a thoughtful and thorough economic policy. It leaves me wishing that the Obama administration promoted an economic policy that did more to support marriage and stay-at-home parents (see my fellow blogger Suzanne Venker’s recent post for more on this topic). It leaves me wishing that Paul Ryan would admit that Ayn Rand’s ideology doesn’t translate into day-to-day governance.

When it comes to our family, I think I know how to teach my kids about both hard work and generosity. Our government doesn’t seem to have room for both, which leaves me wondering where to turn in November.

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Why the Safely Insured Should Care About Universal Health Care

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Over the next few months, the editors of Parents.com will report on hot-button election issues that American families face today, from healthcare to education. In the spirit of offering diverse perspectives on the election, we’ve chosen three moms from across the political spectrum to be guest bloggers on Parents News Now. Each one of them will offer a unique take on the topics that they–and you!–are most passionate about. (Read the entire blog series.)


By Amy Julia Becker

When our son William was 13-months old, he fell and split his ear open. It happened just before dinner, so my husband continued with the evening routine for our daughter Penny while I took William to the Emergency Room. The local pediatric ER serves most of Trenton, NJ, and when we arrived it was moderately full. One child had pink eye. Another vomited on the floor. None of them seemed to face what I would have deemed an “emergency.” No broken bones, no cases of severe dehydration (which had brought us to the same ER a few months earlier with Penny), no gaping wounds other than William’s. I suspected that theirs was simply the emergency of living without health insurance.

Access to health care has never been a personal issue for me. I grew up with enough affluence and stability to assume I would receive whatever medical care I needed. That assumption extended through my adult life, where the greatest problems I’ve faced in relation to health care have had to do with remembering to schedule routine appointments. Even though Penny was diagnosed with Trisomy 21, also known as Down syndrome, shortly after her birth, access to health care hasn’t been a problem for our growing family either. Penny has needed more medical care than most 6-year-olds, including a procedure to close a hole between her heart and her lungs, three sets of tubes in her ears, two minor eye surgeries, and plentiful routine checkups with specialists. We’ve paid our relatively minor share of the bills, and we’ve been grateful to my husband’s employer and our insurance company for covering the rest.

And so I have watched the national debate over health care unfold with some degree of detachment. I have no dog in this fight. I see merits in arguments on both sides, as “liberals” support the use of government to ensure the common good and “conservatives” volley in return about protecting individual (and institutional) liberties. It’s an essential and unending American tension between individual freedom and the collective consequences of such freedom. The Supreme Court has declared the Affordable Care Act (more commonly known as Obamacare) largely constitutional, and most of the provisions in the law will not impact our family in a direct or substantial way. And yet, despite some significant reservations with some of the law’s provisions and mandates, I believe that this step towards universal health care in America is good for our family because it is good for our nation.

I support the expansion of health coverage to include those with pre-existing conditions and those who number among the “working poor” for both compassionate and pragmatic reasons. I’m well aware that my position as a woman with health insurance comes in part because my husband and I have worked hard through the years, and in part because of the undeserved fact of growing up in an affluent home. I have always had a safety net based not upon my own merits but upon the circumstances of my birth. When a comparable safety net is extended to the 30 million or more Americans without access to affordable health care, I not only applaud the change out of compassion, but also out of a pragmatic belief that this newly-created access to affordable healthcare will be worth its attendant costs as it improves individual and collective well-being.

A study in Oregon recently demonstrated that health coverage for uninsured residents “substantially increases health care use, reduces financial strain, and improves self-reported health and well-being.” It cost more for Oregon to pay for health care for these individuals than it had when they were uninsured, at least in the short-term. But the personal impact on health and well-being suggests a substantial positive impact on society at large.

Access to health care for all Americans benefits all Americans, even those of us with stable coverage. The Supreme Court has upheld a law that enables government to provide for the common good.

And yet some of the provisions and language contained within the law demonstrate either ignorance of or disregard for personal liberties and personal responsibility. For instance, the law mandates access to prenatal testing for all pregnant women, and it does so under the heading of “preventative care.” The language here assumes that a prenatal diagnosis will lead to abortion (the only way to “prevent” a prenatal condition), and thus suggests that the government wants to make choices on behalf of pregnant women rather than ensure access to information that will allow them to make their own choices. Similarly, the provision for coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions ensures that such individuals will not be charged more than their peers, unless they use tobacco. This exception demonstrates an arbitrary instance of government overreach in deeming tobacco use so negative that it must be singled out for financial penalty, whereas other adverse personal choices related to health (diet, alcohol and drug use, and unprotected sexual activity, for instance) go unremarked. Health care legislation ought to regulate basic health services for individuals without presuming women’s choices about their pregnancies and while giving private health insurers reasonable latitude to award healthy behavior.

I look forward to a day when I can take my son to the Emergency Room and sit among other mothers who are there because their children need immediate care, not because they don’t have access to local pediatricians for their children’s infections and viruses and other routine complaints. I look forward to a day when I can number my own privileges as among those extended to all Americans. And I look forward to a day when a law that offers comprehensive good for our nation nevertheless upholds individual liberties and choices.

For additional views on the healthcare ruling, see Supreme Court Decision ObamaCare: We Should Rejoice and ObamaCare: A Tax By Another Other Name Is Still a Tax.

Read more opinions from Amy Julia Becker.

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