REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY
AT CHILD CARE ANNOUNCEMENT
The East Room
I want to thank the children who walked in with us. You represent millions and millions of other children. And you did a wonderful job, and I think we should applaud for you. (Applause.)
I am pleased that as I look around this East Room, which has seen so many important events in our nation's history, to see so many friends and advocates of our nation's children and families who have helped push child care to the forefront of America's agenda.
Today, we join together with the President in taking this historic step forward for America's children, for our working families, and for our country. We have much to be thankful for in this new year when it comes to the well-being of our children. Immunization rates are the highest in our history. Infant mortality is at an all-time low. And teen pregnancy is down. The President signed the largest expansion of health care coverage in over 30 years to provide health insurance for millions more of our nation's children. And thanks to the adoption bill recently signed by the President, more kids will have a shot at growing up in safe and loving homes.
This administration is also helping parents make the choices that are right for their families, whether that means working or staying home to care for their own children. From the $500 per child tax credit for families with children, to the Earned Income Tax Credit that lifts millions of working families out of poverty, we are now providing as a nation greater resources and real choices for America's parents.
Today, however, more of America's parents are working, by choice or by necessity. More than ever, parents rely on child care and after-school programs to care for their children for part of the day. We all have a stake in making sure that every child in care is safe and nurtured. This is part of America's unfinished business, because while we've made important progress in strengthening child care in this country, it still fails too many of our children and working parents.
I've worked on children's issues, as many of you have, for more years than I care to remember. I've been privileged to travel around our country, and indeed the world, visiting day care centers, talking to experts, talking to moms and dads. And I've seen firsthand what it means to a family when a child is well cared for while a mother or father has to work. And I've also seen the results of our failures to invest in our children at the most critical stages of their young lives.
I think we all understand how important child care is. But I believe that the daily struggle that many parents undergo to balance the demands of work and family is only now getting the attention it deserves. A few months ago with the help of many of you here, the President and I hosted a first-ever White House Conference on Child Care where we sought to turn the literally millions of private conversations that occur in homes and workplaces and supermarket aisles and after church and in every setting you can imagine -- turn those private conversations into a national dialogue on how to improve the availability, affordability, safety and quality of child care in America.
We were spurred by the recent scientific studies that were discussed at last year's White House Conference on Early Childhood Development and Learning -- studies that confirm what every parent and grandparent has intuitively known, that the love and attention a child receives in that child's earliest years have a direct impact on the development of that child's brain and dramatically affect how children learn and develop over an entire lifetime.
As more of our nation's parents join the work force, and as we reform the welfare system which requires more of our nation's parents to join the work force, more children are spending their early years in child care. Today, over half the infants in this country are in day care and millions more school-age children have both parents or their only parent in the work force. And for many of those parents it is a struggle to find the child care they need. They hobble together relative care, family day care, center day care, anything they can imagine. And then, as their children get older, they have to worry about after-school care. For too long America's parents have struggled with too little information, too few choices, and too many worries.
Today, the President announced an historic child care proposal that seeks not only to give working parents the peace of mind they need and deserve, but also to give more of our children the kind of care they have to have. By helping working families pay for child care and improving the safety and quality of that care, this proposal truly will help parents better balance the demands of both home and family.
We are so privileged to live in a time when America is at peace and our economy is doing so well. It's also a time of enormous change and transition as more parents join the work force of the 21st century. Times like this present unique opportunities for action as well as challenges for leadership. And I believe that we should ensure, as we are attempting to do today, that no family in this time of rapid change falls through the cracks and no child is left behind. I believe the President's proposal will help us all move together in fulfilling our most important responsibility as individuals or as a nation -- the care and nurturing of our children.
And now it is my great pleasure to introduce our Vice President who has not only cared and nurtured, along with Tipper, his own children, but who has provided visionary leadership in improving the lives of America's families and children. Please welcome Vice President Al Gore. (Applause.)
President and First Lady | Vice President and Mrs. Gore