Unless you live off the grid, it was difficult not to notice all of national attention paid to Kentucky last week – Danville, Kentucky in particular. The Vice Presidential debate brought hundreds of reporters from around the world to Danville for one evening.
Things were a buzz around Kentucky Youth Advocates as well. It was a busy week for us hosting the 2012 Step Up for Kids Conference on Monday, working with the Heart of Kentucky United Way in Danville for a youth rally near Centre College on Wednesday, and working with
KET and many other amazing partners to produce a panel of high school students which aired right before the debate on Thursday. It was gratifying to see so many advocates for children come together in different contexts throughout the week.
Danville Step Up for Kids Rally, 2012 Copyright Whitney Neal Photography
On Monday, we heard national and state experts talk about the importance of investing in kids, reforming the state’s youth justice system, the benefits of the Affordable Care Act for children, and improving transparency in the state’s child welfare system.
Michael Petit, President of Every Child Matters, kicked the day off with a plea to the audience to not think of our policymakers and elected officials as the “government” – but to think of them as the structure for our choices – our decisions. Therefore it is up to us to make sure we are making choices and decisions that are best for our youth – the future of Kentucky. He encouraged Kentuckians to call on Governor Beshear to create a committee on Children, Youth and Families that would work to ensure best practices are in place to protect our children and families. He also encouraged us to tell Senator McConnell to do the same by putting back into regular rotation the Conference on Children, Youth and Families.
I was inspired by watching everything unfold: from advocates asking challenging and thoughtful questions during the youth justice session, to over 100 children, youth, and adults coming together to rally for kids in Danville – it was a busy week highlighting the importance of kids.
The week’s events culminated in the VP debate between Vice President Biden and Congressman Ryan on Thursday. For the last month, advocates across the country have been calling on debate moderators to “Talk Poverty” and to ask candidates for their plans to improve the wellbeing of children. More than 1 in 4 Kentucky kids live in poverty and this issue has not been discussed. Unfortunately, it was again barely mentioned last week.
Fortunately on Tuesday nigh, children and families received slightly more attention from both President Obama and Governor Romney. President Obama said we need to make sure every child in America has a chance to succeed. Governor Romney discussed the problem of lower median household income and increased poverty rates and said we need to work to ensure a bright future for our children. There was still little detail from either candidate about exactly how they would do this.
Policymakers represent our choices. It is up to us to hold them accountable and to continuing asking the tough questions about their plans for kids that others are not asking.
And don’t forget to Vote for Kids.