Petition focuses on children at risk - Catholic Courier

Petition focuses on children at risk

Investing in the future of a child at risk will pay great dividends in the future, said Marvin Mich, director of social policy and research at Rochester’s Catholic Family Center. Those rewards might not be financial, he noted, but will greatly benefit the community.

Yet he said the biggest reason for helping at-risk children arises from Catholics’ baptismal call to serve others and live out their faith.

“Social ministry is works of charity and works of justice. This is a way to live out that dimension of the Gospel,” Mich said.

He and his fellow members of the diocesan Public Policy Committee are asking area Catholics to use the weekend of Feb. 10-11, which has been designated as Diocesan Public Policy Weekend, as an opportunity to speak up for children who are at risk and unable to speak for themselves. Parishes will circulate petitions encouraging the state Legislature and Gov. Eliot Spitzer to budget for expanded investments in child care, early education and services for children.

“There’s so much evidence that investment in this stage of life serves us in the long run,” Mich said.

According to information provided by the PPC, studies have shown that children who receive a high-quality early education are more successful in school and are better prepared to compete in today’s global economy. Children who have received high-quality early education and child care also are less likely to turn to criminal behavior and more likely to have increased physical and mental health and decreased risk behaviors, the committee’s information shows.

After working with representatives of the New York State Child Care Coordinating Council and Winning Beginning NY, PPC members developed the petition’s specific focus on child care, early education and services, Mich said. Winning Beginning NY is a statewide campaign meant to inform the public of the benefits of investing in early care and education and making those issues a priority.

The Public Policy Committee hopes the state’s policy makers will allocate more money for child-care subsidies, Mich said, since many families are not poor enough to be eligible to receive subsidies, but are unable to afford quality child care for their children.

“It’s about quality child care, not just plunking a child in front of a TV,” he said.

The committee also wants increased funding for quality early-education and preschool programs, as well as for services to benefit young children, such as preventative and early-intervention services and home visits, Mich said. These services are provided by a variety of organizations and agencies, including Catholic Family Center.

“In-home services are important because some parents need coaching on how to parent and, in extreme cases, infants may be at risk if the parents don’t know what they’re doing,” Mich said.

Mich said he hopes parishioners will sign the Public Policy Weekend petitions and use them as a springboard for becoming more involved in children’s issues. Only by becoming personally involved with at-risk children and the organizations that serve them will people truly realize how important these issues are, he said.

Mich noted that The Children’s Agenda, a Rochester-based advocacy group, has published a directory of agencies and organizations that interact with children and teens, as well as the various ways volunteers can work with such groups. Many parishes have hard copies of this directory, which also may be found online under the “Links” section of The Children’s Agenda’s Web site, www.thechildrensagenda.org.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information on Public Policy Weekend, visit the diocesan Web site at www.dor.org and click the link for Public Policy Weekend.

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