Each year for decades, The Church of the Brethren has hosted a week-long Christian Citizenship Seminar to foster civic education and leadership development among youth. In 2013, the seminar focused on how child poverty harms the development of families and communities. (See the promo materials here.) The group of 45 youth and their advisers examined how limited access to proper nutrition, housing, and education can have repercussions throughout the child’s entire life. They gathered to seek to understand how political and economic systems can be leveraged to create change in children’s access to basic human necessities, in their own states, and in the country as a whole. You can see their full advocacy ask for their legislative visits below, and click here to see a video overview of their week. They learned how Christian faith, expressed in theology and action, informs and shapes a Brethren response to child poverty.
- Rev. Shannon Daley-Harris, Director of the Children’s Defense Fund Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry, former chair of the National Council of Churches Children and Families Committee (which drafted the NCC Policy Statement “The Church and Children,”) and author of Our Day to End Poverty: 24 Ways You Can Make a Difference.
- Sarah Rohrer, Deputy Director of Organizing and Grassroots Capacity Building, Bread for the World
- Norah Deluhery (Acting Director), Roxana Barillas (Deputy Director), Daniel Cohn (Emerson National Hunger Fellow), USDA Center for Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships
- Jerry O’Donnell, Press Secretary for Rep. Grace Napolitano CA-32
- Shantha Ready Alonso, Poverty Initiative Director, National Council of Churches
- Nate Hosler and Bryan Hanger, Church of the Brethren Advocacy
They also watched the film “Inocente.” Inocente is an Oscar nominated documentary about a homeless teenager trying to make a life for herself in American society. Watch the trailer here.
This year’s seminar was planned by the following Church of the Brethren staff: Becky Ullom, Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry; Nate Hosler, Advocacy Officer; Rachel Witkovsky, National Junior High Conference Coordinator, and Jonathan Stauffer and Bryan Hanger, Advocacy Assistants
2013 Christian Citizenship Seminar “Advocacy Ask”
2013 Christian Citizenship Seminar
We as individuals and as a church are working to address poverty and human need in our communities, nation, and globally. We are especially concerned with the impact of poverty on children. We call on Congress to take aggressive steps to maintain funding for critical programs supporting children both domestically and internationally. Such programs must support quality nutrition, education, and housing.
Reflecting the Need:
- Childhood poverty is both a tragedy for the child and negatively affects individuals throughout their lifetime. The first 1000 days from pregnancy until age 2 are critical for adequate nutrition.
- More than 48 million Americans, including more than 16 million children, live in households that struggle to put food on the table. Globally 925 million people suffer hunger and almost 16,000 children die every day from hunger-related causes. Inadequate nutrition both inhibits development in children and hinders their ability to succeed in school.
- In some situations, children must work to support their family and are pulled out of school. Inadequate childhood education dramatically reduces the ability of individuals to care for themselves, their families, and contribute to local community and economy. While childhood poverty does not mean that the individual is fated to this, it does make success much more difficult.
- Homelessness and unstable housing puts a child’s future success at greater risk. Transitory housing also disrupts schooling and the ability to build strong social relationships and networks. The movement of upper-income families and individuals back into city centers along with the foreclosure crisis has greatly reduced the supply of stable and affordable housing.
We ask the United States Congress and Administration to:
- Increase support for primary and secondary education
- Federal education programs play a key role in ensuring all children have access to an education, regardless of family background or income. Nearly 50 million children are educated in public schools, many of which are in dire need of renovation and modernization.
- Today, there are many challenges impacting the quality of education our nation’s students receive. At a time when education funding is being drastically reduced, we must keep in mind the cornerstone role education plays in personal success, innovation, and the economy.
- Support flexibility to promote innovative and effective models of education.
- US policy should strongly support the Millennium Development Goals as the world pushes to achieve these goals by 2015. MDGs 1 Eradicate Extreme Hunger and 2 Achieve Universal Primary Education are particularly important for addressing childhood poverty.
- Ensure affordable housing, especially in urban contexts which are prone to sharp increases in the cost of housing.
- Demand for rental housing is increasing due, in part, to the foreclosure crisis. This has forced rental prices to escalate and has created two significant new challenges in the affordable rental market. Low-wage workers are struggling to find affordable rentals, and the high unemployment rate exacerbates the need for additional units that are affordable to very-low-income and extremely low-income households. We call on Congress to provide additional units of housing that are affordable to very-low-and extremely low-income households by funding the already authorized National Housing Trust Fund.
- Protect and Strengthen federal programs that support the nutritional needs of children.
- The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps households put food on the table during times of great need, keeping millions out of poverty. Nearly half of SNAP participants are children. Additionally, more than 20 million low-income children participated in the National School Lunch Program in 2011. While the same children are also eligible for the School Breakfast Program and the Summer Food Service Program, only about half received breakfast and 10 percent received summer meals. During the continuing budget debates it is imperative that these programs are protected.
- Teach nutrition through school gardening programs which demonstrate growing, food preparation, and environmentally sustainable living.
- Congress should support robust international food aid and improve its nutritional quality. Many majority world countries have rapidly expanding populations with high percentages of children and youth. If these young people are healthy and have opportunity they will avoid the risk of social instability and be a dynamic force in their communities.
For more information, or with questions, contact:
Coordinator, Office of Public Witness
Church of the Brethren