In the face of the economic recession and widespread budget cuts, children's advocacy groups across the country hope to hang on to existing budget items and programs in upcoming state legislative sessions.
Access to health care, economic security and early childhood education for kids up to age five are other top state priorities, the National Association of Child Advocates says.
The group, which has members in 49 states across the country (except Alaska) and is backed by the Prudential Foundation, has unveiled a state-by-state review of what children's issues are high on advocates' wish lists.
"This report ...makes clear that there is no single national agenda for children," says the association's Tamara Lucas Copeland. "Children in all 50 states have unique unmet needs, and policymakers need to respond in different ways," she says.
Member organizations, which go by different names depending on the state, fight for better health and welfare programs for kids, families and communities. Officials from Maryland's Advocates for Children and Youth helped policymakers shape the state's children's health insurance program.
Elsewhere, Kansas Action for Children helped to shape the state's foster care system following privatization of the services in 1996.
Though advocates acknowledge it will be tough to draw attention to children's issues in light of September's terrorist attacks and related news, officials also see increased support for kids. "There's more potential now for doing great things for families and kids than ever before," says Kansas' Gary Brunk. "Since Sept. 11, more people are focused on family, children and communities. That's the silver lining in a dark picture, and it's a great opportunity," Brunk says.
Among additional results: