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Where are Kids on the Campaign Trail?

May 29, 2012

PORTLAND, Ore. - Advocates for children in Oregon and across the country say the youngest Americans are being ignored so far in the presidential campaigns. They are hoping that changes before November.

The nonprofit group Every Child Matters says big business is steering the campaigns with multimillion-dollar attack ads, and the candidates are responding to those charges rather than focusing on families.

Every Child Matters President Michael Petit says kids need friends in high places, too - including the Oval Office.

"Campaigns and elections cost a lot of money, and it's easy to ignore the needs of children, who don't contribute anything, and it's hard to ignore those who are putting a lot of money on the table. It means that children's issues are having a harder time than ever in punching through."

He acknowledges that the economy, unemployment and health care costs affect parents and kids. However, he notes there has been little discussion of poverty and related concerns, from inadequate child care to substance abuse and child abuse.

In Oregon, 78 children died from abuse or neglect in the five years from 2006 to 2010, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. One of the group's priorities is legislation (S 1984/HR 3653), co-sponsored by Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer, that Petit says has gotten little attention so far in Congress. It would convene an expert panel to curb deaths from child abuse and neglect, which he says are preventable and significantly under-reported.

"It would look at our nation's system of child protection, our social safety net as it exists for children, and make recommendations on how to build a child protection system that allows children to thrive, instead of one that fails to protect children."

He says there have been more child-abuse deaths in the United States than casualties in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars since those conflicts began, and more than 80 percent of the victims are under age 4.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR