We Play to Win for Kids

I JUST LOVE THAT VIDEO.

It is usually among those selected when pundits choose the “greatest sports quotes of all time.” And, of course, Herm Edwards – a coach with a losing record – is now one of the experts on ESPN.

I believe – at my core – that we “play to win the game FOR KIDS.” Nice tries. Pyrrhic victories. Rationalizations at failure. Those phrases leave me cold. It does kids little or no good when we as children’s champions only come close. We, in fact, do have to “play to win the game.”

Given the public perception of absolute toxicity and gridlock in Frankfort, you may be surprised that kids won – and will continue to win – in 2016. And they won because children give common ground to leaders who agree on nothing else.

As an example, kids have won in budget decisions. They began winning even before the legislative session began when the Bevin administration raised reimbursement rates for child care providers. And they won at the end of the day when the dust from the budget battles settled. An array of cornerstone kid supports, like the K-12 education formula for funding, were maintained rather than taking the cuts that hit so many other facets of state government.

But the new budget did more than simply maintain for kids. As an example, the eligibility level for child care supports increased to 160% of the federal poverty level, so more moms and dads can get to work and be certain that their children have access to high quality child care. Yes, this budget session was tough. Yes, very tough decisions had to be made, especially given the pension crisis. But legislators and the Governor made a commitment to kids in the deliberations of those final days.

And kids won in the legislation passed during the 2016 session. As an example, you cannot talk about adult expungement without thinking about the positive impact that will hold for sons and daughters across the Commonwealth. I was especially pleased to see the legislative session continue its growing legacy around protecting children from abuse and neglect. In 2016, SB 60 sponsored by Senator Whitney Westerfield became law, which means we have a better chance at prosecuting perpetrators of abuse than we have ever had.

I am especially animated that kids are continuing to win even after the final gavel has fallen. As an example, progress is just around the corner this summer on issues like providing specially trained nurses for children who have been sexually assaulted and tackling the egregious practice of the indiscriminate shackling of our youth. I am also very encouraged by Governor Bevin’s intense commitment to launching a revolution in the continuum of child welfare so that we can have a state in which family preservation and kinship care are priorities rather than afterthoughts.

I am not naïve, nor do I want to be Pollyannaish. There are clearly arenas that continue to demand action. For instance, I still am scratching my head as to why 2016 did not see affirmative action on a state Earned Income Tax Credit, youth expungement, and charter schools.

On one hand, we are already rolling up our sleeves for 2017. And yet, on the other hand, let’s hit the pause button for just a moment. May I applaud the members of the Senate and the House and the Governor for coming together when it comes to kids? And may I also applaud YOU. So many of KYA’s partners – on a collective and individual basis – made a difference. When you came to Children’s Advocacy Day, when you wrote that letter to the editor, when you called your legislator on that issue of import – together you created a kaleidoscope of voices that brought us several steps closer to that KYA vision where “Kentucky will be the best place in America to be young.”

To learn more about the 2016 Blueprint For Kentucky’s Children and read policy fact sheets, click here.