Policy Priorities

 

Kids Win Missouri members span the child well-being landscape and benefits from expertise in early education, pediatric health, mental health and safety, foster care and adoption and more.  Our members spent the summer and fall months thoughtfully developing policy priorities for the 2018 session of the Missouri General Assembly with the goal of supporting the health, education, safety and development of Missouri children and their families.

 

 

Divided into five categories, Kids Win Missouri’s priorities span the child well-being spectrum and include the following areas:

  • Early Childhood
  • Safety, Security, Family and Community
  • Economic Security and Revenue
  • Health and Mental Health
  • Youth Education and Development

The priorities in these areas are described below.

 

Early Childhood

The goals of Kids Win Missouri’s early childhood priorities are to increase access to high quality early childhood education for all children in Missouri and to ensure kindergarten readiness and strong life-long outcomes. Today, only ten percent of early childhood programs in Missouri are considered high-quality, and until the legislature acted in 2016, Missouri was the only state in the nation that prohibited quality assessment of early childhood programs.  Kids Win Missouri is committed to giving parents the tools they need to access the quality of their early childhood options and to prepare their children for success in school and in life.

Kids Win Missouri is also working to expand another kindergarten readiness tool in place in school districts across Missouri, Pre-K collaboration. Collaboration fosters shared staff development and gives taxpayers and school districts the flexibility to craft and implement what strategies work best for their community.

As the birthplace of Parents as Teachers (PAT), Missouri has long been a leader in quality home visitation programs.  As evidence proving the efficacy of programs like PAT, Nurses for Newborns and Nurse Family Partnerships grows, the dividends gained by our state’s investment in our most vulnerable children become more and more obvious. By providing Missouri families with evidence-based home visiting programs we avoid the costly consequences of abuse and neglect, special education, school discipline and high school dropouts.

Shockingly, according to a recent study by Mission: Readiness, an organization consisting of retired admirals and generals, 72% of Missouri high school graduates are not qualified to enlist in our nation’s military.  By promoting quality early learning opportunities and school readiness, Kids Win Missouri’s early childhood policy priorities take direct aim at the root causes of this national security issue.

Safety, Security, Family and Community

Kids Win Missouri’s safety, security, family and community priorities seek safety for Missouri’s children in communities that are responsive to their needs.

Current law in our state does not require most childcare providers to perform nationwide sex abuse and criminal background checks on their staff, creating a situation where a staff member with a sex crime in another state could be caring for children in Missouri.  Not only does this deficit imperil the safety of our state’s children, it also puts at risk $100M in funds Missouri receives from the federal Child Care Development Block Grant. We support the requirement that all childcare providers be required to perform nationwide sex and criminal background checks.

Missouri is one of only five states that treat 17-year-olds as adults for all criminal offenses.  Missouri’s juvenile justice system is recognized as a national model and diverts the majority of its juvenile offenders away from incarceration.   The majority of offenses committed by 17-year-olds are non-violent misdemeanors. It’s time for Missouri to Raise the Age by treating 17-year-olds as developing adolescents and not place them with violent offenders in our state’s adult criminal justice facilities.

A 2011 MU study showed that, compared to the nation, twice as many Missouri preschoolers are expelled from early learning programs each year.  With no guidelines governing expulsion of very young children—especially boys, children with learning disabilities and minorities—children that most need the benefits of quality early learning are too often sent home.  Long term, expulsion of these children results in higher high school dropout rates, drug abuse and criminal justice costs.  Kids Win Missouri urges the General Assembly to require the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop guidelines and resources that will address our state’s high rate of preschool expulsion.

Economic Security and Revenue

Our state’s economic security and revenue contribute directly to the well-being of Missouri families.  We support a revenue structure and investment in services that help children and families succeed and thrive.  To that end, Kids Win Missouri supports policies to modernize our state’s tax code including enactment of a state Earned Income Tax Credit and the maximization of federal Child Care Development Block Grant and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds.

Health and Mental Health

Kids Win Missouri’s priorities in the area of health and mental health seek to assure that children and families have access to services they need so they can grow up healthy and happy.   With three nationally recognized children’s hospitals in our state, Missouri is a health care destination for many families whose children have serious and medically complex health issues.  All children in our state deserve this level of care.

Unfortunately, our state’s opioid epidemic is affecting the health of children. Missouri must face its opioid epidemic from a neonatal and child perspective that emphasizes thoughtful rather than punitive responses that only imperil our state’s smallest victims.

Thirteen thousand Missouri children are in our foster care system. Legal actions against the state claim that youth in foster care have been overmedicated with psychotropic medications.  Kids Win Missouri supports policies that ensure youth are given the safest appropriate treatment.

Youth Education and Development

Our youth education and development priorities seek to assure that all Missouri youth have access to quality education and out-of-school supports so they are prepared to succeed in life and ready to positively contribute to our state.

We urge that the Missouri School Improvement Plan (MSIP) give school districts credit for providing afterschool, summer learning and other wraparound services that are critical to the success of at-risk children.  We also support the adoption of a Visiting Scholars program, which allows workforce professionals to obtain teaching certification and expand the career choices available to our state’s K-12 learners.

Kids Win Missouri looks forward to working with members of the Missouri General Assembly to enact our priorities and move our state forward in all areas of child well-being.

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