Where are kids on campaign trail?

DENVER – Advocates for children in Colorado 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 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,” Petit said. “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 says there has been little 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, and no Colorado lawmakers are supporting it. The legislation would convene an expert panel to curb deaths from child abuse and neglect, which he says are preventable and are significantly underreported.

“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 said.

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 are children younger than 4.

Petit adds that, as a society, we have a responsibility to our children.

“The objective of every culture is to produce 18-year-olds that are emotionally healthy, physically healthy and well-educated, and the entire future of our well-being is predicated upon the investments we make in ourselves,” he said.

Every Child Matters has a new traveling exhibit that shows how the United States compares with other countries in terms of child welfare. It will tour the sites of all the presidential and vice-presidential debates this fall, including Denver.