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Where are Kids on the Campaign Trail?

May 31, 2012

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The youngest Americans are being ignored so far in the presidential campaigns, according to advocates for children in West Virginia. They're hoping that changes before November.

The group "Every Child Matters" says big business is steering the campaigns with multimillion-dollar attack ads - and the candidates are responding to those rather than focusing on families. Michael Petit, the group's executive director, says children 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."

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

The group "Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia" wants people to ask candidates at all levels if their policies would be good for children. State coordinator Jim McKay says one simple question could help raise the profile of children's issues.

"Is it good for children? If they're talking about policies related to taxation, or jobs, or the environment - is it good for children? If we all ask that question, we'll begin to move the needle to where politicians take children's issues more seriously."

Every Child Matters has a new traveling exhibit that shows how the United States compares with other nations in terms of child welfare. Petit says the nation is slipping. It also highlights what past administrations have done to help children.

"Eliminating child labor, school lunch programs, maternal and child health programs, immunization programs. When we've made smart choices about investing in our kids, we've all benefited from the result of it."

The exhibit will tour the sites of the political conventions and presidential and vice-presidential debates this fall.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV