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Granite State Rumblings: Going On Offense Against Child Poverty

Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 3.18.35 PMNow that Thanksgiving has passed our attention turns to the holidays of December and the hope of what a new year will bring.

2015 has been a long year for the advocates, organizations, and agencies across the state and across the country who have worked tirelessly to ensure that basic needs are met for our most vulnerable populations. It has been an even longer and much harder year for the children and families who continue to feel the effects of a shredded safety net.

It has been a year of frustration and anger as we watch more of our children slip into poverty, go to bed hungry, and wonder where that bed is going to be tomorrow night. And as December’s cold winds blow through the state we now fear for those who have no place warm to escape them.

I needed the Thanksgiving break to watch some football, spend time with loved ones, eat some great desserts, and reflect on those feelings of frustration and anger. I have regrouped, and reignited the flame that gives me a sense of purpose for this work I do. And now I’m ready to get back to work. That work means playing offense instead of playing defense (stealing some football terminology).

We are good at playing defense when it comes to addressing the difficult challenges that face our state. The primary obstacle we face is not related to a lack of goodwill, but rather to the fundamental way we understand the nature of the problems we face. More times than not, we merely respond to symptoms of a given problem [defense] and don’t pay adequate attention to the problem that is producing the symptoms [offense]. All of which puts the cart before the horse and keeps us from truly moving forward.

Take, for instance, the growing issue of child poverty. When we think about helping those in need (“giving back to those less fortunate,” as the popular adage goes), many of us usually focus on acts of charitable giving. After all it is the season of giving. In the malls we find Christmas trees with cards on them asking for a gift for a child in need. At the grocery store are pre-packaged groceries that we can purchase for a family in need. Charity in its many forms tries to help people who are in need, which is certainly important and worthy of our best efforts.

1-8 NH PovertyBut even more important is figuring out why people are in need in the first place, and then working toward alleviating the root causes of such need (it’s one thing to give food to a person who is hungry, but it’s another thing entirely to eliminate the reasons they are hungry in the first place). While we can of course celebrate acts of charity that take place in our community, the ultimate goal isn’t simply about responding to symptoms, but abolishing the problems that produce the symptoms.

So, don’t you think that at a time when we see the income gap widening, ninety-five percent of the recovery gains since 2009 going to the top 1%, over ¼ of all jobs in the U.S. paying below poverty wages, and child well-being indicators falling in our state, now is the right time for all of us to rally around a set of common goals that will strengthen families and put them on a course leading to economic security?

See our 5 #VoteKids priority areas in the Growing Up Granite Section below.


Many New Hampshire kids are doing fine – but many are not.

Learn why we need to #VoteKids!

  1. Equal Opportunity: 1 in 8 New Hampshire children lives in poverty, and the gap between the haves and have-nots continues to grow.
  2. Family and Work:  67% of children under the age of 6 have all available parents in the labor force, and in New Hampshire child care costs about $984 per month for infants and between $788 (New Hampshire State Fact Sheet, 2015) for toddlers and young children.
  3. Access to Education:  46% of New Hampshire’s 3- and 4- year olds did not attend preschool from 2011-2013. A year of tuition at the University of New Hampshire costs $16,986 plus room, board, books and incidentals $28,000+. The maximum Pell grant award covers only $5,775.
  4. Children’s Healthcare:  12,000 New Hampshire children were without health insurance in 2014 and 85,055 New Hampshire children were enrolled in Medicaid/CHIP in 2013.
  5. Children’s Safety: In New Hampshire, 822 children were confirmed victims of child abuse and neglect in 2013.

Equal Opportunity. Individual outcomes will always vary. But when every child gets a fair shot at success, America’s families, communities and the economy as a whole will benefit. Lifting children from poverty and removing discrimination or other barriers to development and achievement are a key government function. As noted by the eminent researcher and author Robert Putnam, denial of equal opportunity is a dagger to the heart of the American Dream.

Family and Work. Stagnant incomes and workplace practices that pit being a parent against being a provider strain families and harm kids. Working and having a family shouldn’t be so hard. Paid sick and family medical leave, access to affordable childcare and better incomes can help provide the economic security and flexibility that parents need to build their careers and support their families

Access to Education.  Research demonstrates that 80 percent of a child’s brain development occurs between the ages of zero and five. Yet little is invested at the federal level in early childhood education. All kids should have access to high-quality preschool regardless of parental income or where they live. Later in life, a teenager willing to work hard in college to get skills needed for success should not be blocked due to race and should not be burdened with a level of debt more crushing than that endured by any previous generation.

Children’s Healthcare.  More children have access to health care than ever due to the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) and children’s protections in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While not perfect, these laws prohibit insurance company discrimination against children with pre-existing conditions, require insurance companies to cover child preventive care, and help ensure families won’t go broke when their child gets sick. Proposed policy changes must detail how children’s protections will be maintained or enhanced.

Children’s Safety. Every child needs a safe environment in their home, school and neighborhood. Preventing child abuse and neglect, as well as minimizing gun violence, a leading killer of children and teens, are top priorities for voters.


Attend Candidate Events

As Granite Staters, we have the unique opportunity to engage with presidential candidates as they make their tours of our first-in-the-nation primary state. This is your opportunity to ask them how they plan to support our kids!

Need help preparing your #VoteKids question for the candidates?

Here are a few examples.

The opportunity gap is identified as the difference between the have and the have-nots. This gap affects a child’s ability to be successful later in life.

What will you do to close the opportunity gap facing children so they have the ability to achieve the American Dream?

Child abuse and neglect costs America $124 billion a year and contributes to poverty, crime, and alcohol and drug abuse.

What will you do to ensure all children are safe in their homes and their communities?

High-quality preschool increases a child’s chances of success in school and life. Children who attend are less likely to be held back a grade or need special education.

What will you do to ensure that every child has access to high quality early learning opportunities?

We know the after-school hours are peak hours for kids to smoke, drink, do drugs and engage in sex; to become victims of crime; and to commit crime.

What will you to do ensure children have access to safe, supervised afterschool opportunities?

12,000 New Hampshire children were without health insurance in 2014.

What will you do to ensure every child has access to the best available medical, mental health and dental care?

Quick Tips on Raising Children’s Issues with Candidates

  1. Find an event. Check out our calendar on our website.
  2. Bring some back-up. While one person can make a big impact at these events, it’s good to have some reinforcement. With more people there, the chances are greater that you’ll get your question(s) asked and even be able to follow up on each other’s questions. But spread out, because if you’ve been called on, it’s unlikely the person sitting next to you will be.
  3. Write your question in advance and practice asking them.
  4. Arrive early to get good seats or places to stand. Up front is always best.
  5. Get the speaker’s attention. If you can, make eye contact with the speaker or the person calling on the audience members for the speaker. Get your hand up first, fast, and high! Don’t wait for the second or third opportunity.
  6. Record! Make sure to get you and your back-up’s questions on record for full quote usage. Videos are great, but sound recordings work just as well.
  7. Get in the handshake line. This line represents yet another opportunity to ask your question. Don’t let go of the candidate’s hand until you have an answer. Use the handshake as a photo op.
  8. Get quoted. Talk to the media and get them to cover your question(s) and the answer(s). Prepare your quote just as you prepared your question. Go to them; they generally won’t come to you. Keep them focused on what you want to talk about.
  9. Let us know what happened! Make sure you let us know what you asked and what the candidate/officeholder answered. If you were interviewed by press, send us a link to coverage or let us know when it’s scheduled to appear.



About MaryLou Beaver

New Hampshire Campaign Director Every Child Matters Education Fund
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