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Edelman asks church women to support child care block grant

4/29/2002 News media contact: Linda Bloom · (646) 369-3759 · New York

NOTE: This report is a sidebar to UMNS story #191. A photograph is available.

PHILADELPHIA (UMNS) - In 1990, United Methodist Women petitioned then-President George H. Bush to sign the Child Care and Development Block Grant into law.

More than a decade later, Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund, is asking the organization to do the same with the current President Bush as the block grant comes up for renewal.

"You can make a difference again for children in need of quality child care and for working poor parents trying to get and stay off welfare," she said April 26 at the 2002 Assembly of United Methodist Women.

This time, Edelman added, Congress needs to allot additional funding of $20 billion over five years, to help 2 million more children get help. Today, only one in seven eligible children receives federal child care assistance.

"Currently, the Bush administration's budget proposes to freeze child care funding at its current level over the next five years, which means 144,000 fewer children will receive federal child care assistance while simultaneously requiring poor mothers to work longer hours in their new welfare proposals," she said.

Assembly participants took time during her presentation to write letters to U.S. senators and representatives, urging reauthorization of the grant and the $20 billion funding increase.

Edelman offered a wealth of statistics about the struggles of the working poor, the lack of proper housing, health care, education and child care, the effects of violence on children and the entrenchment of a poverty that could be overcome if the nation had the political and social will to do so.

"These are not just numbers," she reminded her audience, "these are children growing up every day, struggling to survive and thrive."

She advocated a freeze on the tax cut for the top 1 percent of wealthiest Americans rather than cuts in child care and Head Start programs. "We don't begrudge anyone their first, fifth or tenth million or billion if they are earned on a fair playing field and after children's crucial survival needs are met," she said. "But something is out of kilter when just three of our wealthiest Americans possess greater wealth than the GNP of the 28 least-developed nations in the world with over 385 million people."

She called upon the nation "to put child welfare ahead of corporate welfare" and noted that local, state and federal budgets "are not just economic documents, they are moral documents. They are a values test of what the United States of America stands for. Follow the money and you will find what we truly care about."

Noting the billions spent on missile defense systems and other military items, Edelman said that national security is not just military security, but family and child security as well as economic security.

"It's time to end expensive child poverty and invest in cost-effective solutions to ensure our children's future," she declared. She estimated that lifting every poor family with children above the official poverty line would cost $34 billion a year, or half the tax cut for the top 1 percent of wealthiest Americans.

She urged assembly participants to support the Act to Leave No Child Behind (Senate bill 940 and House bill 1990), introduced by Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., as well as work for reauthorization of the child care block grant.

Said Edelman: "Let's just keep pestering them (Congress) until … they can find $20 billion for child care this year."

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