Thursday, July 10, 2008

Getting kids issues on the table

We joined Deanna Frey of the Wyoming Children's Action Alliance and others concerned about the prospects for all of the state's kids in an effort to get children's issues on the table for the political campaign.

Our first public effort along these lines is a letter to the editor in today's Casper Star-Tribune (July 10, 2008) asking participants in the congressional candidates' forum at Casper College tonight to address several key questions. I'll append the letter below.

The forum, sponsored by the Casper Area Chamber of Commerce, starts tonight at 6 p.m. at Durham Hall. It's the second of a series of such forums. The next one is Aug. 14 in Rock Springs at Western Wyoming College, just before the Aug. 19 primary. Republicans Mark Gordon, Michael Holland, Cynthia Lummis, and Bill Winney are expected to join Democratic candidate Gary Trauner and Libertarian David Herbert.

Those with questions for the candidates can email them to Questions will also be gathered at the forum.

The primary will winnow the Republican candidates to a single nominee. Two other forums are scheduled so far after the primary. The first is Sept, 15 in Cheyenne at the Depot Plaza. In October, a final forum will be staged at the Gillette College Campus on Oct. 23.

Here's the letter we sent to the CST:

Congressional candidates

should Step Up for Kids

July 10, 2008

Dear Editor:

Step Up for Kids, an ad hoc group of advocates for Wyoming children and families, congratulates the candidates for our lone congressional seat for participating in forums across the state. We’re pleased to see them come to Casper College for tonight’s event.

The candidates face many pressing issues, but we believe taking care of Wyoming and America’s children should be the nation’s top priority. While most children live in secure environments and reach young adulthood healthy both emotionally and physically, we know that the opportunity to become productive members of society eludes thousands of Wyoming children and millions across the country. We believe the candidates should address at least three of these issues tonight.

First, 8.6 million children in the country and about 10,000 Wyoming children are without health insurance. Will the candidates support reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) program, which provides health insurance to the state’s poorest children?

Second, Wyoming has the second highest juvenile incarceration rate among the 50 states for children ages 10-15, according to the 2008 Kids Count report. And it ranks 50th for overall juvenile incarceration rates, according to Every Child Matters. Imprisonment has become a substitute for addressing substance abuse, poverty, mental illness and educational failure. What opportunities exist to keep Wyoming children out of jail? What’s the federal role?

And third, what will the candidates do to advance early childhood development? The Child Care Development Block Grant has not been reauthorized since 1996. This program provides subsidies to low income working families (many of whom are working more than one job). Wyoming is one of the few states that does not have a waiting list for families to receive this benefit. What will the candidates do to support working Wyoming families with young children?

We urge the reporters and editors of the Star-Tribune and other state media to ask candidates for all levels of government office to address questions about making smart investments to improve the prospects for all our children.


Deanna Frey Dan Neal

Wyoming Children’s Action Alliance Equality State Policy Center