During election season, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the amount of information vying to influence our decisions every day about who will represent us. Before you vote, it is important to review where candidates stand on issues that are important to you.
Some of the most important issues being discussed are those that impact Nevada’s families and specifically our children. The Nevada Institute for Children’s Research and Policy at UNLV has compiled a list of prominent children's topics to consider when casting your ballot.
Nearly one in four of Nevada’s children live in poverty, and many more live in low wage families working full time to barely make ends meet. Children in poverty experience higher levels of stress, are more likely to miss school due to illness, and do not perform as well academically as their peers who live in higher income families. Policies designed to provide support to working families and opportunities for children to overcome their circumstances can help to improve outcomes and close the opportunity gap for children in Nevada.
More than 176,000 of Nevada’s children are under age 5. Also, 39 percent of families have only one parent in the home, making child care a big issue for working families. The cost of child care for many families has become increasingly unaffordable.
In 2015, the average annual cost of center-based care for a preschooler was $8,792, nearly $2,000 more than the average cost of a year of in-state undergraduate tuition at UNLV or UNR. We know that quality early childhood education is so important for all children, but especially for children in poverty. Unfortunately, preschool also is unaffordable for many families. Policies and programs that support paid family leave, livable wages for families, and child care subsidies can help to ease the burden of child care and provide more working families the means to give their children their best start in life.
Every child deserves a strong start in life, and this means having the building blocks for learning in place well before kindergarten. More than 80 percent of a child’s brain development happens before age 3. A child’s environment, exposure to new things, and opportunities to communicate are crucial during this period of life. That’s why policies that support high quality early learning opportunities for all children are so important.
Since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), we have seen a dramatic decrease in the number of uninsured children, especially in Nevada. While it is great that more children are insured, just having insurance does not guarantee access to care. Approximately 30 percent of children are currently covered by public insurance. Especially in Nevada, families struggle to find care because many providers do not accept public insurance or limit their caseload due to low reimbursement rates — not to mention our shortage of physicians and specialists. In addition, many families have other issues accessing care, such as lack of transportation and inability to take time off without sacrificing their job. It is critical to ensure that all children — regardless of race/ethnicity, geographic region, or income — have access to quality health care.
Every youngster deserves a happy childhood and should feel safe in their home. Children need safe, stable, nurturing environments and relationships to help them reach their full potential in life. One critical issue in ensuring that children are safe is preventing all forms of child maltreatment. Child maltreatment occurs in all types of families; it does not discriminate by race, ethnicity, geography, or income. While there is not a single factor that leads to child abuse, it can often occur when a parent or caregiver is experiencing high levels of stress and does not have support. Child maltreatment is preventable. Investments in parenting programs that increase education and support systems for all families create a stable environment where both the child and the family can thrive.
For more information on children's issues in Nevada, check out the 2017 Children's Legislative Briefing Book scheduled for release on Sept. 13 on the Nevada Institute for Children’s Research and Policy website.