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Where are SD Kids on the Campaign Trail?

June 4, 2012

YANKTON, S.D. - Advocates for children in South Dakota say the youngest Americans are being ignored so far in the presidential campaigns, and 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.

Every Child Matters President Michael Petit says kids need friends in high places, too, including in 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. And 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 almost no discussion of poverty and related concerns, from inadequate child care to substance abuse and child abuse.

One of the group's priorities is legislation (S 1984/HR 3653) 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."

Petit points out that the U.S. is slipping compared to other nations in terms of child welfare, after past administrations made great strides in helping children and families.

"Eliminating child labor, establishing school lunch programs, maternal and child health programs, immunization programs that have federal fingerprints all over them. So, what we're trying to do is show that kids still have these great needs, and that when we've made smart choices about investing in our kids, we've all benefited from the result of it."

Seventeen South Dakota children died from abuse or neglect in the five years from 2006 to 2010. Petit 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 those deaths are of children under age four.

Child maltreatment data are at www.acf.hhs.gov.

Jerry Oster, Public News Service - SD