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2019 – A Powerful Start to the Child Poverty Task Force

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The JONAH Child Poverty Task Force formed in mid-January with a great turnout at its first meeting. One of the first actions of the group was to work toward presenting a resolution to the Eau Claire County Board in support of reducing child poverty and racial disparity by one-half in the next ten years. After both the Health Department and Human Services boards passed the resolution, the County Board met on March 5th and, after much supportive discussion, passed the resolution unanimously.

The task force is now working to in inform the public of the wide ranging issues of child poverty and how adverse childhood experiences impact adult outcomes. The most recent activity of the task force was a presentation of Wisdom’s End Child Poverty Campaign by JohnWagner, chair of the group, to the League of Women Voters of Ashland/Bayfield Counties. The presentation of Wisdom’s campaign at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor’s Center in Ashland on March 7th was expanded to include more current statistical data and long-term scientific research. There were 40 attendee’s including Kelly Westland, a Regional Representative of Tammy Baldwin. The event organizers included Linda Jorgenson and Jan Penn of the LWV.

The turnout for the presentation was impressive for a rural community and many thoughtful questions were asked afterwards. The next day the LWV group invited many stakeholders in child poverty to a brainstorming discussion of how to develop and execute a plan to advance the child poverty agenda.

The economic consequences of child poverty were discussed in detail with reference to the multiple economic research studies that show upstream investment in child care provides a return of >7% per annum in reduced social costs of healthcare and incarceration. It was noted that Ashland County Circuit Court Judge Kelly McKnight has said “We can’t jail our way out of prevention.”

Child poverty has wide-ranging consequences and it was agreed that there are many agencies that address small pieces of the problem. However, it was generally concluded that a collective vision must be formed that is broader than the individual agency missions.

The two primary outcomes of the meetings were driven by Kelly Westland and the LWV. Kelly Westland provided a model to develop meaningful arguments to policy makers and the LWV is preparing resolutions to be presented to the Ashland and Bayfield County Boards, with the hope that these counties will be the second and third to pass child poverty resolutions. The LWV of Ashland/Bayfield is well-organized and will be a powerful ally to the campaign.