Maine’s kids had a couple of tough headlines last week. First, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Kennebec Valley closed its office and there is no immediate replacement to match the at-risk children in its program with mentors. The other was state cuts in after-school programs, leaving 17 organizations scrambling to stay open just a couple of weeks before school starts. That means fewer families have an after school option from Gardiner’s Boys and Girls Club to Portland’s A Company of Girls.
Of course, Maine is not alone in struggling with public sector budget cuts that leave the next generation vulnerable. The good news is that many in the private sector is increasingly responding, with many companies unwilling to stand by.
The Children’s Defense Fund, with pro bono help from the ad agency Fallon, created the Be Careful What You Cut campaign to advocate keeping funds for kids’ programs, with stark warnings about what might happen otherwise. You may have seen the new ad that depicts a pregnant woman whose head is that of an infant girl, with copy that says cutting just $4,000 of Medicaid and food stamps could lead to teenage pregnancies that would cost $10 billion a year.
The Children’s Defense Fund stands to gain traction with a storytelling campaign that focuses on consequences. They share statistics: In America, one if five children is poor; States spend two and a half times more per prisoner than per public school students. They explain policy.
Another ad shows a homeless man but with a little boy’s face. It takes a policy position – that cutting the earned-income tax credit for low income workers would increase child poverty by 23 percent in the future. “And since poor children are more likely to drop out of high school, they are less likely to find steady work as adults. Not to mention that paying for each year of high school dropouts costs us more than $125 billion over the course of their lifetimes.”
The campaign also makes it easy for anyone to participate in the grassroots advocacy, building awareness, educating our peers on the real issues and taking action. The site has with templates for letters to editors, links to Facebook and other social media platforms – and in this hot election season, ways to talk about the issues with candidates for office. Now, will anyone act?