Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks this afternoon at the Child Welfare Reform Symposium hosted by Congressman Chaka Fattah, Chairman of the Congressional Urban Caucus, Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth and Congressman Bob Etheridge, Co-Chairs of the Rural Wokring Group. Below are her remarks:
“When people ask me what are the three most important issues facing the Congress I always say the same thing: our children, our children, our children. Their health, their education, the economic security of their families, pension security of their grandparents, the housing situation they live in, and the environment that they face. Everything revolves around the children - that's why when I was elected Speaker, I accepted the gavel of the House of Representatives and called the House to order on behalf of all of America's children.
“I am very excited about what Congressman Chaka Fattah has done with the Urban Caucus, and today we're joining together the Urban Caucus and the Rural Caucus under the leadership of Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin and Congressman Bob Etheridge. They are coming together to recognize that the needs of our children are national - that they don't break down and fade away when we go out to the country or go into the city.
“I served on the Appropriations Committee with Congressman Fattah and I saw firsthand the fight he made every day for America's children. Focusing in large measure on their education and readiness to learn - he has been in the forefront for a very long time.
“Congressman Fattah was the co-chairman of the National Summit on America's Children last May. It was a summit which scientists, practitioners, and advocates gathered to discuss our nation's most critical resource: our children. It was one of the most extraordinary days in my 21 years in the Congress of the United States.
“At this summit, there were Members of Congress and friends of children that heard, for example, that intense and chronic stress early in life literally kills developing brain cells. When children cope with hunger, homelessness, poverty, and danger, their development is impaired. We all knew that, but we wanted scientific basis. We wanted scientific basis so that we can make decisions for our nation's children with great certainty on how to allocate our resources. We also heard, which we already knew, that investments made early in childhood will lead to success in later years.
“Our nation has seen an alarming trend of an increase in low birth weight babies and lack of progress on infant mortality. We have a tremendous opportunity to reorder our nation's priorities and ensure our children have the tools they need to proceed.
“That is why this partnership between our urban and rural Members is central. For too long, the needs of both of these areas have been neglected, and in these times of economic difficulty, families who have been teetering on the edge can easily be pushed into crisis.
“Our nation's children need solutions that work in the heart of the busiest cities and also on the farms that feed us. We can't approach this as helping one at the expense of the other - investing in our children is not a zero-sum game. We need to find our common ground.
“Chairman McDermott of the Income Security and Family Support Subcommittee on Ways and Means has introduced legislation that addresses some of the challenges facing our most vulnerable children - The Invest in Kids Act.
“It creates a new federal-state partnership to both improve foster care, and reduce the need for it; ensures federal foster care assistance for every child in need of care; provides assistance to states to improve their child welfare workforce; and enacts reforms to strengthen foster care families and health care. These are very big issues.
“Today, the Members of Congress who will make a difference will hear from experts in the field of child wellbeing. Your expertise will inform our work and influence our policies to help ensure a bright future for all of America's children. We will not waste your time. We will listen, we will hear what you have to say and figure out how we can translate that into better public policy so that we further the lives of America's children. Thank you all for coming.”