Opinion: How Utah’s elected officials can help protect children

The children of Utah deserve to have these policies implemented.

Great policies for children are those that prioritize their well-being, safety, education and overall development. These policies should be designed to create an environment where children can grow up healthy, happy and with the opportunities they need to reach their full potential. The children of Utah deserve to have these policies implemented, and it is up to all our elected officials to identify and implement proven and research-based policies for our children and families.

Here are some, but not all, key policy areas in which our elected officials can contribute to the well-being of children:

Access to Quality Education

Ensure access to high-quality early childhood education and K-12 schooling. This includes reducing disparities in educational resources and providing support for children with special needs. It also means that we must fund our schools adequately.

Health care

Guarantee access to affordable and comprehensive health care, including vaccinations, regular check-ups and mental health services for all children. Policies should also address nutrition and promote healthy lifestyles.

Child welfare

Establish strong child protection and welfare systems to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse, child abuse and neglect. This includes effective reporting mechanisms and support for families in crisis.

Child poverty reduction

Implement policies that address child poverty, such as meaningful income support programs, affordable housing and food security initiatives.

Juvenile justice reform

Develop a fair and rehabilitative juvenile justice system that prioritizes diversion programs and alternatives to incarceration for young offenders.

Access to cultural and recreational activities

Support programs and initiatives that provide children with opportunities for cultural enrichment, sports and recreational activities to foster their physical and emotional development.

Family support services

Offer services and resources to strengthen families, such as parenting classes, affordable childcare and mental health support for parents.

Digital safety

Establish policies to protect children online, including regulations on online content, privacy and cybersecurity. Provide instruction on good digital citizenship.

Youth engagement

Encourage the active participation of children and young people in decision-making processes and civic activities, fostering a sense of agency and responsibility.

Research and data collection

Invest in research and data collection to better understand the evolving needs of children and to evaluate the impact of policies on their well-being.

Effective policies for children should be evidence-based, continuously evaluated and adapted to changing circumstances. They should also involve collaboration between government agencies, communities, non-profit organizations and philanthropists to create a holistic and supportive environment for children to thrive.

We have seen some of these policies, such as 100% Kid’s Coverage and Full Day Kindergarten, begin to be implemented, and we are currently monitoring the data. However, we need to address all the policies we know lead to good outcomes for our children and families. We have a moral obligation to do what is best for our children, and we ask you to join us in advocating for policies that lead to those outcomes.

Moe Hickey

Moe Hickey is the executive director at Voices for Utah Children.

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