All eyes were on Congress last week as we neared another government shutdown and budget agreements made in early morning hours. Lost in the shuffle was the budget’s strong commitment to young kids and families, which will directly improve the lives of Kern County’s youngest residents. For this, we owe thanks to our congressmen, Kevin McCarthy and David Valadao, who championed family programs throughout the budget negotiation process.

For starters, Congress reauthorized Maternal Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting that offers newborn parent education and family support. Now, Kern can continue the Nurse Family Partnership Program that, through public health nurses, improves health outcomes for babies and moms, increases school readiness and economic self-sufficiency, and reduces crime.

Congress addressed the child care shortage, affecting far too many Central Valley working families. The new budget doubles the Child Care Development Block Grant increasing access and raising quality across child care programs, ensuring that little ones enter kindergarten ready to learn. This budget, together with previous budget actions, extended CHIP for an additional 10 years, awarding $7 billion to federally funded health clinics crucial to families’ health and wellness.

Those who earn slightly too much to qualify for Medi-Cal can now rest assured their families will have health care for years to come. We realize that one budget won’t solve all the problems we face, as a community or nationwide. But this budget’s emphasis on children’s programming shows a strong commitment to the well-being of families.

Roland Maier, First 5 Kern