This is Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, co-chair of the National Summit on America's Children.
Every parent sees endless possibilities and great hope in the eyes of a child. As a nation, when we look at today's children, we see tomorrow's leaders — scientists and teachers, engineers, doctors and diplomats.
But for our children to thrive and our nation to stay competitive, we must invest in their healthy development and the public policies that make it possible.
Next week, Democrats are convening the National Summit on America's Children. With Speaker Pelosi and dozens of members of Congress, we will hear from national experts on how best to utilize recent scientific findings about early childhood development to shape public policies.
These days, with the rising cost of living and the need to balance work and family, parents are stretched thin, struggling to make sure their children get the attention and care they deserve.
At the same time, in recent years our federal government has cut back drastically on the proven initiatives that most effectively support our children's development. The Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Departments alone, have seen their federal purchasing power erode by $11 billion in just the last few years. As a result, efforts such as Head Start, child care assistance, and after-school programs are reaching fewer children and families.
Right now there is a chasm between what we know is good for America's children and what we actually do as country to make it happen.
This is not a political issue. It is about looking at the facts. The latest research in biology, neuroscience, and social science shows that a child's earliest experiences have a long-lasting impact on his or her development, health, achievement, and livelihood as a productive adult.
We know that 80 percent of brain development occurs by age three. Young children attending quality early intervention programs are more likely to stay in school, go to college, and become successful, independent adults. They are less likely to be arrested, or commit violent crimes. And while early abuse, neglect, or trauma can have a profound negative impact on a child's development, we also know he or she will recover far more quickly with the right care in the right environment.
By giving kids the right start today, we are making an investment that will pay off for the rest of their lives.
From quality early education and access to health care, to proper housing and support for military families, the right priorities can make a big difference from day one. We have an obligation to take a hard look at our policies, and make sure they reflect both the latest science and our priorities as nation.
Young children without proper nutrition, for example, are at far greater risk of poor health, hospitalization, anemia, and cognitive development delays. But by investing in the federal Food Stamp Program, we can invest in better health for the more than 13 million monthly food stamp recipients who are children.
Ultimately, these are not just children's issues, they are family issues.
We must improve the child tax credit which, under current law, fails to fully cover 20 million children in working families earning too little to get the full credit. Of those affected, 7 million get no credit at all. We must make sure our tax code helps hard working families achieve the American Dream.
We can also step up to help the millions of low-income working parents who do not consistently have paid sick days, so they no longer have to choose between their health, their family's health, and their jobs.
We are working to turn research into results. Children need to visit the doctor regularly, even when they are healthy. They need quality learning opportunities, stimulating environments, and nurturing parents.
These ideas are simple, but with our children's future at stake, nothing, nothing could be more vital.
This is Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut. Thank you for listening.