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Children's Advocates Say Candidates Ignore Child Poverty Crisis

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Monday, July 25, 2016   

RICHMOND, Va. – Given how little attention it's getting from candidates, children in poverty is a hidden crisis, say advocates.

According to the most recent complete numbers from Kids Count, more children in Virginia and across the nation are growing up in poverty now than during the Great Recession.

Bruce Lesley, president of the children’s advocacy group First Focus, says in the first 10 Democratic and Republican presidential debates, only one question out of 500 was specific to the lives children in this country now live.

"Someone will say I care about terrorism and we need to do it for our children,” he relates. “That may be true but there are huge issues facing our children directly. So where's the big debate?"

About 20 percent of U.S. children live below the poverty line, a rate sharply higher than adults.

The number of Virginia children in poverty rose by 20 percent between 2007 and 2014.

Advocates hope the issue comes up when the vice-presidential candidates debate in Richmond on Oct. 4.

Folks working on children's issues say they have trouble drawing attention to the topic during political fights and budget battles.

Lesley says even though childhood poverty is increasing, federal spending devoted to fighting it has fallen in recent years.

"There's a totally untapped concern that people have in this country about kids that our nation's leaders really aren't talking about,” he says. “I feel like Ms. Clinton has talked about it more than Donald Trump who I can't recall even speaking about it at all."

Although the issue doesn't always draw a lot of attention, Julia Isaacs, a senior fellow with the Urban Institute, says it can be hugely important.

"Children growing up in poverty tend not to do as well in school, which means that then when they're adults they may be in poverty,” she points out. “And so one reason we try to break the cycle of poverty is so we don't have inter-generational poverty. "





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