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Voices for Alabama’s Children releases 2024 policy agenda

Voices for Alabama’s Children, a nonprofit child advocacy organization, published its 2024 policy agenda, including Medicaid expansion, child care tax credits and increased access to mental health resources as its priorities for legislative action.

“Voices for Alabama’s Children’s vision is that all children are safe, healthy, educated, and economically secure so that they, their families, and our state can thrive,” said Apreill Hartsfield, children’s policy and data analyst for Voices. 

“We believe all children deserve to live in a community that affirms their inherent value as members of the human family. We will advocate for policies of equity and inclusion that create opportunity for all Alabama children to have the best chance to succeed.”

Economically, children in Alabama are faring worse today then they were nearly a decade ago.

According to a 2022 study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, childhood poverty increased from 21.5% in 2016 to 21.7% in 2020. Among children five years old and younger, poverty grew from 23.7% to 25.4% during the same time frame, and Alabama children of all ages living in what was considered “extreme poverty” increased from 10.2% to 10.4%.

The unemployment rate for mothers of young children also increased between 2016 and 2020 from 56.6% to 64%, as did the number of children living in single-parent households, increasing from 29.6% to 31.1%.

Its No. 1 policy priority, as it was in 2023, was for lawmakers to expand Medicaid, which would make an additional 300,000 Alabamians without health insurance eligible for the low-income health care program. 

While a relatively low number of children in Alabama are without health insurance when compared to other states – just 3% – expanding Medicaid,Voices argued, would help to better equip parents with the health care resources they need to take care of their children.

Democrats have advocated for the state to expand Medicaid for years, though Republicans – who hold a super majority in the Legislature – have largely opposed the idea. House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, however, has recently expressed an openness to the idea of expanding Medicaid, albeit through a private-public partnership.

Another one of Voices’s policy priorities was for lawmakers to expand the access to quality child care, with one proposal being to expand the state’s existing financial incentives for child care providers.

Managed through a partnership between the Alabama Department of Human Resources and the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education, Alabama’s Quality Rating and Improvement System is an incentive program that offers financial support for child care providers who reach certain quality and capacity benchmarks.

On the low end, the QRIS program offers an annual payment of $2,200 for family child care homes, and up to $81,000 for child care facilities with a child capacity of more than 100 that have reached a five-star level of quality.

In its 2024 policy agenda, Voices called on lawmakers to preserve and expand the state’s QRIS where possible, as well as to work to “identify long-term solutions for addressing workforce development and other industry obstacles.”

Another of Voices’s primary policy goals for the new year was for lawmakers to continue to increase mental health resources for children, some that members of the state School Safety Advisory Commission identified as being among the largest gaps in school safety.

Lawmakers have made some progress in this realm, placing more than 240 individuals in Alabama’s public schools that are fully trained to provide mental health first aid for students.

“Our policy agenda is bold because we prioritize giving all children and families every opportunity to thrive, and these priorities, we believe, will have the most impact on improving outcomes for the state’s children,” Hartsfield said.


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