This year is likely to be remembered for generations as one of loss that laid bare our nation’s long standing racial and economic disparities. As the COVID-19 pandemic raged, families lost loved ones, children lost months of classroom instruction and in-school services, parents lost jobs, millions lost their health insurance, and too many families lost the ability to keep food on the table and a roof over their head. We witnessed the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and too many other Black people at the hands of police officers and white supremacists and across the country, and communities cried out for justice. And amidst and despite all of the tragedy, devastation, and horrific loss of human life in 2020, for much of the year, the most powerful leaders in Washington shirked their responsibility to provide aid to suffering families.
The Children’s Defense Fund spent much of 2020 pushing Congress to take action to protect children and families from the harmful impacts of our country’s health, economic, and racial disparities while continuing to defend against harmful regulatory and administrative policies set forth by the Trump administration.
Our commitment to children and policies that protect them has never wavered, and we know we have many fights ahead to keep children and families safe in the new year. But as we reach the end of an unprecedented year, we are taking a moment to celebrate some important wins for children and families in 2020.
1. For the first time in 20 years, presidential candidates addressed our nation’s shameful child poverty crisis. Thanks in large part to young advocates like our very own CDF-Minnesota Beat the Odds honoree Israel Glenn, child poverty became a major topic during the 2020 presidential election. Nearly 80,000 people joined Israel and CDF in demanding a question about child poverty during the presidential debates and in February, we witnessed the first presidential debate question on child poverty in 20 years. The question–and the candidate’s responses–were critical first steps in holding our leaders accountable to the 10.5 million children living in poverty in America.
2. The courts protected DACA and thousands of families that rely on it. DACA recipients have grown older, found community, and built families in the U.S., and they are parents to more than 250,000 children. For the past three years, the Trump administration has worked tirelessly to cancel DACA and rescind parents’ ability to legally work and live in this country–one of many attempts to separate families and cause lasting harm to children. In June, the Supreme Court found the Trump administration’s 2017 attempt to rescind DACA unlawful and rejected their effort. Despite this ruling, the administration issued a memo to limit DACA rather than reinstate it as they were supposed to. In early December, a district judge ruled that this memo was invalid and DHS must reinstate DACA immediately. Though we are remaining vigilant and continuing to pursue justice for DACA recipients, these are meaningful steps to reduce ongoing threats to the safety and well-being of DACA recipients and their children.
3. Young people made their voices heard. Communities across the country stood shoulder to shoulder calling for justice and took to the polls to hold their elected officials accountable on behalf of children. Young people organized and joined demonstrations against racism and police violence, working to dismantle harmful systems and keep our children safe. And in the fall, voter turnout across all age groups was the highest in over 100 years, with voter turnout among young people 18 to 29 years old surging from 45 percent in 2016 to 53 percent in 2020. Children who were too young to vote were also engaged in the elections this year: CDF Freedom Schools® scholars raised their voices on the issues they wanted adults to champion at the polls during this year’s National Day of Social Action and helped amplify CDF’s 2020 voting resources.
And finally, after seven months of delaying meaningful relief for children families, the federal government finally took some long overdue steps to help struggling children and families before they headed home for the holidays. While this relief package is an important step forward, there is still a lot of work to be done early in the new year to ensure children and families get what they need to weather these crises.
In addition to these victories, we saw meaningful change and progress for children in communities and states across the country. Read more about our local wins for children in 2020 here.
We are grateful to so many young people and child advocates who stand with us as we work to hold elected officials accountable, make meaningful policy changes at the local and federal level, and fight to get families and children what they need to weather the ongoing pandemic.
As we look to the opportunities ahead and welcome a new administration and a new Congress in January, we are hopeful and determined. We cannot let up in our fight for bold policy changes that are desperately needed to protect the rights of all children during the pandemic and long after: to finally end child poverty, keep children safely with their families, and ensure they have access to comprehensive and affordable health care, nutritious food, and the safe homes and communities they need to thrive.