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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.

GROWING UP GRANITE

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.

WE NEED YOUR HELP TO MAKING CHILDREN, YOUTH, AND FAMILIES A NATIONAL PRIORITY.

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.

Granite State Rumblings: Syrian Refugee Children Need A Safe Place To Grow

 Image by DFID - UK Department for International Development FLIKR CC


Image by DFID – UK Department for International Development
FLIKR CC

As we gather with our families and loved ones to celebrate Thanksgiving this week, I am reminded of the many blessings in my life. My most precious treasures are all of the children who have been a part of my life over the years.

I am fortunate to have three beautiful, articulate, resourceful, and resilient daughters, and two handsome, articulate, resourceful, and resilient sons. I gave birth to two of them and gained the other three through marriage, a grandson who brings me nothing but joy, 2 nieces and 3 nephews who I never get to see often enough, 4 boys who were entrusted to me for their care by the State of NH’s foster care system, and the hundreds of children who I taught or cared for in my 20 plus years in early childhood education.

My life has been blessed because of children. I cannot imagine it any other way.

That is why it has been so distressing the past two weeks to hear the fear and anxiety that many have about the Syrian refugees being directed at the children. Over 2 million Syrian children have sought refuge in neighboring countries according to Save the Children Federation. Most are in Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon. More than 7,000 children have been killed. Children affected by the Syrian conflict are at risk of becoming ill, malnourished, abused, or exploited. Millions have been forced to quit school.

One of the things that I know as a parent, grandparent, foster parent, and teacher is that children need a safe environment in which to grow. They need caring communities, a place to run and play, healthy food and clean water, and adults in their lives who have their best interest at heart. Your children and my children deserve these things and so do the children of Syria.

By opening our hearts and minds we can help ensure that children who are being forced to flee their homes and in many cases their families will find safe refuge.So, because I know that the most effective way to overcome fear and misinformation is through education, let me do some educating. And please, feel free to pass this along to others.

A refugee is defined as a person outside of his or her own country of nationality who is unable to return because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinions, and is unable to obtain sanctuary. The definition is sometimes expanded to include people fleeing war or other armed conflict.

Syrian refugees face a long security screening process before being admitted for entry to the United States. Averaging 18 months to 24 months, the process is the most intensive of any check conducted for people seeking admission to the United States. It is specially designed to mitigate any threats and helps ensure Americans are not placed in harm’s way.

Here is The Screening Process for Refugee Entry Into the United States

Recurrent vetting: Throughout this process, pending applications continue to be checked against terrorist databases, to ensure new, relevant terrorism information has not come to light. If a match is found, that case is paused for further review. Applicants who continue to have no flags continue the process. If there is doubt about whether an applicant poses a security risk, they will not be admitted.

1 – Many refugee applicants identify themselves to the U.N. Refugee Agency, UNHCR. UNHCR, then:

  • Collects identifying documents
  • Performs initial assessment
    • Collects biodata: name, address, birthday, place of birth, etc.
    • Collects biometrics: iris scans (for Syrians, and other refugee populations in the Middle East)
  • Interviews applicants to confirm refugee status and the need for resettlement
    • Initial information checked again
  • Only applicants who are strong candidates for resettlement move forward (less than 1% of global refugee population).

2 – Applicants are received by a federally-funded Refugee Support Center (RSC):

  • Collects identifying documents
  • Creates an applicant file
  • Compiles information to conduct biographic security checks

3 – Biographic security checks start with enhanced interagency security checks

Refugees are subject to the highest level of security checks of any category of traveler to the United States.

  • U.S. security agencies screen the candidate, including:
    • National Counterterrorism Center/Intelligence Community
    • FBI
    • Department of Homeland Security
    • State Department
  • The screening looks for indicators, like:
    • Information that the individual is a security risk
    • Connections to known bad actors
    • Outstanding warrants/immigration or criminal violations
  • DHS conducts an enhanced review of Syrian cases, which may be referred to USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate for review. Research that is used by the interviewing officer informs lines of question related to the applicant’s eligibility and credibility.

4 – Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/USCIS interview:

  • Interviews are conducted by USCIS Officers specially trained for interviews
  • Fingerprints are collected and submitted (biometric check)
  • Re-interviews can be conducted if fingerprint results or new information raises questions. If new biographic information is identified by USCIS at an interview, additional security checks on the information are conducted. USCIS may place a case on hold to do additional research or investigation. Otherwise, the process continues.

5 – Biometric security checks:

  • Applicant’s fingerprints are taken by U.S. government employees
    • Fingerprints are screened against the FBI’s biometric database.
    • Fingerprints are screened against the DHS biometric database, containing watch-list information and previous immigration encounters in the U.S. and overseas.
    • Fingerprints are screened against the U.S. Department of Defense biometric database, which includes fingerprint records captured in Iraq and other locations.
  • If not already halted, this is the end point for cases with security concerns. Otherwise, the process continues.

6 – Medical check:

  • The need for medical screening is determined
  • This is the end point for cases denied due to medical reasons. Refugees may be provided medical treatment for communicable diseases such as tuberculosis.

7 – Cultural orientation and assignment to domestic resettlement locations:

  • Applicants complete cultural orientation classes.
  • An assessment is made by a U.S.-based non-governmental organization to determine the best resettlement location for the candidate(s). Considerations include:
    • Family; candidates with family in a certain area may be placed in that area.
    • Health; a candidate with asthma may be matched to certain regions.
  • A location is chosen.

8 – Travel:

  • International Organization for Migration books travel
  • Prior to entry in the United States, applicants are subject to:
    • Screening from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s National Targeting Center-Passenger
    • The Transportation Security Administration’s Secure Flight Program
  • This is the end point for some applicants. Applicants who have no flags continue the process.

9 – U.S. Arrival:

  • All refugees are required to apply for a green card within a year of their arrival to the United States, which triggers:
    • Another set of security procedures with the U.S. government.
  • Refugees are woven into the rich fabric of American society!

Safe travels and enjoy your Thanksgiving and dinner table conversations!

Ben Cohen Speaks About Corporations Buying Our Politicians At #WeRise Event In Concord

20150311_StateHouseWERISE

About 40 activists gathered at the New Hampshire State House as part of the nationwide #WeRISE Day of Action.

Stamp Stampede’s Ben Cohen speaks at “We Rise” Action at State House
National Day of Action to Put People and Planet First

The StampStampede.org joined with NH Citizens Action, the NH Rebellion, American Friends Service Committee, Open Democracy, Granite State Progress, People For the American Way, Every Child Matters and other New Hampshire organizations to protest “a political system rigged on behalf of big corporations and the wealthy.”

“Congress needs to stop acting like a wholly-owned subsidiary of multinational corporations,” said Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben&Jerry’s Ice Cream and Head Stamper of StampStampede.org. “When billions of dollars are being poured into our elections, government stops serving the people and serves the corporations instead.”

031115StateHouseWERISE1207

Stamp Stampede Head Stamper Ben Cohen spoke about the movement to pass a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

Cohen cited a Sunlight Foundation study showing that politically-active corporations get back $760 in government benefits for every dollar they spend influencing politics. “People watch this stuff happening, and they’re angry about it.  People in both parties are angry about it.  Our elected officials are supposed to be serving us, their constituents, and instead they’re spending our tax dollars subsidizing corporations.”

“It’s time to take our government back,” Cohen said.  “If ‘We the People’ can’t out-spend the corporations, we can at least out-shout them.  That’s why StampStampede.org is turning US currency into millions of miniature political billboards, by legally stamping it with messages like ‘Not to Be Used for Bribing Politicians.’” Every stamped dollar bill is seen by about 875 people.  That means if one person stamps three bill a day for a year, the message will reach almost 1 million people.   “It’s a petition on steroids,” said Cohen.

There are over 30,000 stampers across the country and hundreds in New Hampshire.  StampStampede.org has also recruited over 50 small businesses in the state to set up small point-of-purchase stamping stations where customers can stamp their dollars, buy a stamp and learn more about the influence of money in politics.

“Our goal is to stamp 3.4 million bills – that’s 10% of the currency in New Hampshire – before next February’s presidential primary,”  said Cohen, “It’s monetary jiu-jitsu – we’re using money to get money out of politics”

The Concord “We Rise” rally was one of a nationwide series of actions organized in affiliation with National People’s Action, Center for Popular Democracy, and USAction.   “All across the country, families are taking to the streets, parks and state capitols to send a clear message: ‘Our statehouses and our cities belong to us.  It’s time for legislators to enact our bold agenda to put people and planet first.’”

#WeRise

Granite State Rumblings: Election Day is one week from today.

Tuesday, November 4th.

How To Exercise Your Right To Vote:

WHERE Do I Register to Vote?:

  • At the polling place on Election Day.

The registration form asks for your name, age, place of birth, local residence, previous voting address if you were registered somewhere else, and a driver’s license ID number or the last four digits of your social security number. You’ll be asked to read and sign a statement saying you understand voting fraud is a crime. You’ll be asked to show proof of identity, age, citizenship, and domicile. If you can, bring a driver’s license, passport, student ID or other photo ID, or mail, such as a utility bill, addressed to you when you go to register.

If you don’t have those kinds of documents, you may sign a statement attesting to your identity, age, citizenship, or domicile.

WHERE Do I Go to Vote?:

  • You can find your polling place by clicking here and entering the information into the form on the page.

HOW Do I Get a Ballot on Election Day?:

You will be asked to show a photo ID or to sign a simple affidavit.
Acceptable photo ID: You need only one ID from the list below.

Federal and state photo IDs:
The IDs must be current or expired no more than five years ago. For voters over 65 years old, no expiration restriction applies.

  • A driver’s license from any state
  • A non-driver’s photo ID from any state
  • A United States armed services photo ID
  • A United States passport or passcard
  • A New Hampshire photo ID issued by the DMV for voting purposes only

Student photo IDs:
No date is required on student IDs.

  • New Hampshire schools including public and private colleges and universities, community colleges and licensed career schools
  • Public high schools and private high schools that are approved by the N.H. Department of Education

Other acceptable means of identification:

  • A photo ID deemed acceptable by a Supervisor of the Checklist, Moderator or Town or City Clerk
  • Verification of a person’s identity by a Supervisor of the Checklist, Moderator or Town or City Clerk
  • An affidavit filled out and signed by the voter and an authorized election officer

Voter ID from the DMV

  • If you don’t have a driver’s license or a non-driver’s ID from the New Hampshire Dept of Motor Vehicles, you may get a voucher from your Town Clerk that will allow you to get a free Voter ID for Voting Purposes Only from the DMV.

WHAT If I Won’t Be in NH on Nov. 4th?

Absentee voting:

  • If you’re a registered voter but can’t vote in person because of disability, religious beliefs, work hours, military service, or temporary absence, you may ask your city or town clerk for an absentee ballot in advance of the election. You may ask in person or fax or write to the clerk using a form by clicking here or by putting the same information in a written request.

Your ballot must reach the town or city clerk by 5 pm of Election Day.
A marked absentee ballot may NOT be transmitted by fax to a town or city clerk.

BEFORE YOU VOTE:

  • SAMPLE BALLOTS NOW AVAILABLE:

The Secretary of State’s website now has sample ballots for the Nov. 4 election. Go to the Sample Ballots page and click on your town. Give it a minute, then scroll to the bottom and you will see the ballot for your town.

  • KNOW THE CANDIDATES’ POSITIONS:

A great way to find out about the candidates without a lot of searching is by going to Ballotpedia’s New Hampshire Page.

Scroll down just a bit until you come to the Green Box that says, “On the ballot 2014.” There you will find the list and information about each candidate seeking office at the Federal and State Level.

Need more information on voting in New Hampshire? Download our Every Child Matters in New Hampshire Voter Campaign ToolKit!

Sources: League of Women Voters of New Hampshire, NH Secretary of State’s Office, Ballotpedia.com

Tuesday, November 4, 8am – 8pm, General Election, Nationwide

Click here to see more events in New Hampshire!


A national public opinion poll released last week by the Children’s Leadership Council finds strong support for increasing funding for effective programs that improve the lives of children and youth across the age spectrum, from birth to adulthood.

An overwhelming 79 percent of Americans favor investing more in programs that support children’s education, healthcare, nutrition and well-being. A solid majority of Republicans (59 percent) join with overwhelming majorities of independents (82 percent) and Democrats (93 percent) in calling on Congress to make children’s programs and services a higher budget priority.

The Children’s Leadership Council (CLC)—a coalition of more than 50 of the nation’s leading child and youth advocacy organizations, including Every Child Matters —commissioned Hart Research Associates to conduct the poll, which used telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of over 800 Americans age 18 and older. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percent.

Among the results of the nationwide poll:

By a strong margin, Americans say that investing more in children’s health, education and well-being should be a higher priority today than reducing taxes.

  • As we near national mid-term Congressional elections, 52 percent of poll respondents who are registered voters said they would be more likely to support a candidate who favored increasing funding for programs and services to address children’s needs, with only 10 percent saying they would be less likely to favor such a candidate.
  • 61 percent of Americans believe children would be better off if government did more for children rather than “got out of the way.”

When it comes to supporting vulnerable populations, Americans do not see it as an “either or” proposition: 63 percent say that the aging of the baby boom generation means we need to invest more in children today, not cut programs for kids, because “the best way to provide a secure retirement [for seniors] is to ensure that we have productive workers contributing to the economy in the future.”

These findings come as our nation continues to experience a slow recovery marked by stagnant wages, rising costs, inadequate public programs and growing economic inequality. Children and young people shoulder much of the burden: Nearly one in five children and young adults in our country live in poverty, and many are barely above the poverty line and struggle to make ends meet.

The good news: Investments in government services and supports can work. New Census Bureau data show that federal anti- poverty programs like SNAP, the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit lifted millions of children out of poverty last year. The new poll results indicate that the majority of Americans also believe these supports are essential in helping families navigate today’s economy.

In the months ahead, Congress will debate the worthiness and effectiveness of federal programs, including those that help children, youth and their families, as lawmakers finish the fiscal year (FY) 2015 appropriations and begin work on the FY2016 federal budget and appropriations. Poverty, inequality, and economic and social mobility are, and likely will continue to be, prominent topics over the next few years.

Every Child Matters believes that we must do more than just talk or theorize about these critical issues. We must act. Investing in children and their families is investing in America. Improving children’s health, education and well-being is not just the right thing to do—it is one of the smartest investments we can make for our nation’s future.

We join the CLC and the American people in calling for smart, effective investments across the age spectrum from birth to young adulthood, and across the issue spectrum—from children’s health and nutrition to early care and education, violence prevention, supports to youth transitioning out of foster care and juvenile justice, and economic security programs for vulnerable children and families.

Learn More: The full poll results, as well as shareable messages and graphics, are available online at bit.ly/CLCpoll.

MaryLou Beaver
New Hampshire Director
Every Child Matters Education Fund

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