The following post first appeared in A Better Life, a blog for the Courier-Journal about the aftermath of the recession.

I spent the last 3 presidential debates and the vice presidential debate on my couch at home, very tense, watching and listening closely. While I was watching as a concerned citizen (though a decided voter), I was also watching as a child advocate – specifically listening for any mention of child programs, the need to increase federal investments in children, and perhaps most importantly, the pervasive problem of child poverty.

Throughout the nation, one in five children live in poverty. In Kentucky, that increases to one in four. That means more than 25% of Kentucky children live in families earning less than $22,350 a year for a family of four. Children growing up in poverty are more likely to face childhood health and behavioral problems and are more likely to face education challenges. They are also more likely to end up poor as adults, creating an unending cycle of poverty in the Commonwealth. Children are our future leaders. Our future doctors, teachers, small business owners, soldiers, policymakers, judges, nurses, police officers… etc. If we don’t help kids grow up safe, healthy, and ready to succeed now – we are jeopardizing the future of our communities, our Commonwealth, and our nation.

Despite the importance of children for ensuring we have a strong, competitive economy in the future – they received barely a mention in any of the debates. Sure, candidates threw around discussion of education and children’s health – but not child poverty. The cynic in me is not surprised: children cannot vote – so why bother wasting precious debate minutes talking about them? Let’s talk instead about Medicare and social security to appease the older generations that are a valuable voting bloc.  The child advocate in me says this is unacceptable. Children cannot vote which is exactly why we should be vocalizing their issues and protecting their futures.

Child poverty is an issue that affects all of us and our future. As election day quickly approaches and everyone is sick and tired of political ads and rhetoric – remember our future – remember kids. And vote that way. Vote for kids.