Speaking of anniversaries, the fine advocacy group Action for Children North Carolina  celebrated its 30th last week. Executive Director Deborah Bryan sent us the following essay in contemplation of the event.
Supporting Our Children’s Past, Present and Future
Since 1983, North Carolinians have raised millions of children–and we have millions more to go. Each in a small but real way holds the state’s future in his or her hands. Action for Children North Carolina exists to give them every opportunity to succeed. The last 30 years points the way for the decades to come.
Action for Children’s network of support has ensured that the voices of our children are heard in local and state government, school districts and even our state’s juvenile and adult correctional facilities.
Our advocates have worked tirelessly to:
*expand Health Choice to cover more than 140,000 children;
*ensure the passage of critical child safety laws like the booster seat law and the child bicycle safety act;
*orchestrate the ban of corporal punishment in nearly all of North Carolina’s school districts; and
*help lift nearly 300,000 North Carolinians, half of whom were children, above the federal poverty line through passage of the Earned Income Tax Credit–all successes we achieved together.
Even with all of these accomplishments, our work is far from complete. Our mission is refreshed as new challenges arise. Opportunities for our kids to succeed are diminishing every day as barriers stand in their way to education and fruitful employment.
Since the economic downturn, more than 1 in 4 children lives in poverty, including 30 percent of our youngest children ages 0-5. To make matters worse, our schools and essential community programs are not afforded the resources needed to create opportunity, stop the cycle of poverty and reverse the school-to-prison pipeline.
Poorly-funded schools, punitive discipline practices and inadequate education placements for suspended students push some North Carolina children out of the classroom and into the juvenile or adult justice system where they face long odds against graduation. When they do find themselves in the justice system they are at an even further disadvantage from their peers in other states.
North Carolina remains one of only two that automatically prosecute all 16- and 17-year-olds as adults – even for an infraction as minor as stealing a candy bar. This outdated system does a disservice to kids and families, taxpayers and all those sworn to pursue justice. It exposes children to the influence of seasoned adult criminals. It also burdens them with an adult criminal record, which undercuts opportunities for education and employment.
Action for Children’s network of leaders is fighting everyday to change these realities for our state’s kids. As we approach our 30th anniversary, we are celebrating the accomplishments of a few of these individuals who have helped improve the well-being of children across the state. Our ‘Shining Star’ award recipients include Senator Linda Garrou of Forsyth Co., Doris Mack of Halifax Co., Senator Bill Purcell, MD, of Scotland Co. and John & Claire Tate of Mecklenburg Co.
We’re calling on all North Carolinians to join these leaders and take a vested interested in the health and well-being of not only our children, but our state’s economy and vitality by supporting programs and policies that put kids and our future first.
For 30 years, Action for Children North Carolina has worked to fulfill the promises we owe our children. Thanks to countless volunteers, donors, staff and elected leaders, our group has made great strides in supporting our state’s children, but we still have much more work to do. Will you join us?
Deborah Bryan is the Executive Director of Action for Children North Carolina.