congressA couple Kentucky Youth Advocates staff , including myself, had the opportunity to meet with members of Kentucky’s federal delegation last week while in Washington, DC for conferences. The visits came on the same day national partners released exciting new polling numbers showing broad support among voters for Congress to take action to increase investments in early childhood education to give young children a strong start.

The new polling data made for good conversations with members and their staff on education. Generally, we heard strong support for early education and its value for giving children opportunities to succeed in life. From some offices, we heard enthusiasm about working on a federal proposal to increase investments in early childhood. We hope this shared interest in ensuring children have quality early learning opportunities translates to action. That’s what the voters polled wanted – for Congress to act now to strengthen early education and child care.

We also raised issues of youth justice with members and their staff and found much agreement that we can do better as a nation in how we respond to youth misbehavior. Though the trends are improving, we are still putting too many children in juvenile jails for things that don’t pose a threat to public safety – it’s a practice that is very expensive and doesn’t achieve public safety. The Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) has been up for re-authorization for more than 6 years. We would like to see Congress move this Act forward to further advance the positive changes in the youth justice field.

The potential cuts to the food stamp program, SNAP, were another topic to discuss with House members. Regardless of the ideology on the program, we urged members to ensure that children have access to the program so they don’t go hungry. This is especially important given new research documenting the health impact for children of receiving food stamps.

Returning home to Kentucky last week, we felt encouraged by the positive conversations on education and youth justice issues. We hope that this common interest moves beyond conversation and translates to leadership from members of our delegation to invest in early childhood education and to reauthorize the JJDPA. These actions make sense for the nation and they make sense for Kentucky.