Listen up, Washington!
Dear Mr. President,
God knows there's a lot on your plate -- the economy, the war, the environment...Still, there are some things that can't fall between the cracks. This is Parenting's wish list: 8 things moms and dads all over the country need you to do.
Invest in education -- where it counts.
When kids get a comprehensive early education, the benefits last into adulthood, and that means only good things for this country. But get this: Since 2002 almost $1 billion has been cut from Head Start, and now fewer than 40 percent of eligible kids are served by the program. And fewer than 2 percent are served by Early Head Start (for babies and toddlers). This is really bad timing because more children need the program now: The number of poor kids grew by 13 percent between 2002 and 2006. Give them what all children deserve -- a fair start.
And while we're on the subject: Fix No Child Left Behind -- and fund it. It was noble in intention, but it's deeply flawed. Seriously. Fix it.
Make health care available to everybody.
It's unconscionable that 1 out of almost every 12 kids in this country doesn't have health insurance -- and 90 percent of them live in working families! Millions more have insurance but can't get proper care because their medical problems aren't covered or the co-pays are too high.
It's time for a universal health-care program. Moms and dads should never have to wonder if they can afford a doctor.
Change the future for poor kids.
13 million kids in the U.S. are living in poverty -- a number that has increased by more than a million since 2000. Poor children are much less likely to graduate from high school, which makes it hard for them to break the cycle of poverty. But you can: Invest in education and job training, raise the minimum wage, do whatever it takes. We're parents; all kids are our kids. Take care of them.
Get serious about helping new moms and dads.
The Family and Medical Leave Act is great: It lets workers take up to 12 weeks off, unpaid, to care for a new baby or a newly adopted or foster child. The problem? Forty percent of workers aren't protected by it -- and those who are often can't afford to take advantage of it. Expand it, and encourage (okay, push) states to adopt paid-leave laws -- so far, only three have -- and help them with the funding.
Give mom vets more than thanks.
There are about 10,000 mothers serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, and many have experienced combat conditions and long separations from their families. Last year, a Joint Economic Committee report found that there aren't enough mental-health services to help these moms and their kids cope. It's time to give them more: more money for counselors, and more research into the specific issues they face.
Help mompreneurs succeed.
Women, many of them moms, now own more than 40 percent of all small, privately held businesses. Two of their biggest issues are health care and access to capital. So support tax incentives or deductions to help them offer health care, and work toward reducing discrimination in lending. Then these moms can continue boosting our economy.
Give abused women a way out.
More than half of the 5 million women who suffer abuse each year live in households with kids under 12. It's hard -- harder than many of us who live in safety think -- to leave an abuser. The Violence Against Women Act needs to be reauthorized in 2010, and strengthened: The country's shelter and support system needs to be expanded.
Support child support.
Fewer than half of parents who are owed child-support payments receive the amount they're due. Improve enforcement, and make sure the states don't keep a portion of the money they collect. It should go to the one who sits up late with a vomiting kid: the parent, not the state.
We hope you're listening, Mr. President. What kids and parents really need right now is someone who takes us seriously, who knows we're not a constituency or a special interest group. We are this country, and we're counting on you.
The Editors of Parenting
The mean annual wage for elementary school teachers: $50,040
The average salary for basketball players in the NBA: $5.2 million