Kamala Harris (File photo)

U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Bob Casey (D-PA) on Tuesday reintroduced the Focus on Children Act and the Children’s Budget Act, a package of bills aimed at increasing transparency about federal investment in the health and well-being of our children. The legislation, introduced during Children’s Week 2019, would require the Office of Management and Budget and the Congressional Budget Office to produce annual, public reports on proposed and actual federal spending on children’s programs.

“The wellbeing of our children should be our top priority as a society,” said Sen. Harris. “Establishing greater transparency around the resources or lack thereof our government is putting into our young people is the first step to ensuring their success and prosperity. There is much work to be done to properly invest in our children, and this legislation will help ensure our spending decisions reflect this as a national priority.”

“If we as a nation value our children, then our federal budgets must reflect those values,” said Sen. Menendez. “At a time when so many programs that safeguard their welfare are under assault by the Trump Administration, we need to examine how every budget put forward by this President – and all future Presidents – impacts the well-being of our youngest generation. Together, the Children’s Budget Act and the Focus on Children Act will strengthen congressional oversight and better protect the federal investments we make in America’s children.”

“More than 9 million children in the United States live in poverty. This neglect of our most precious asset is a blight on our nation,” said Sen. Casey. “In order to ensure resources are adequately helping children, we must have greater transparency in federal spending. That is why I am joining my colleagues in introducing the Focus on Children Act and the Children’s Budget Act so that we can have a better understanding of how to fully equip every child for a bright future.”

“Children make up nearly 25 percent of our population but receive less than 8 percent of federal spending,” said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus Campaign for Children. “By requiring the government to provide a full accounting of all federal spending on children, Sens. Harris and Menendez will shine a light on this disparity and pave the way for change. These complementary bills are groundbreaking initiatives.”

Children currently represent 24 percent of the United States population. Approximately one in five children in the United States live in poverty. Yet, according to estimates from First Focus, programs that help children are getting a smaller and smaller share of the federal budget. In Fiscal Year 2018, federal spending dedicated to children was only 8.06 percent, and the share of total federal spending on children’s programs decreased 1.7 percent between 2014 and 2018.

This trend highlights the critical need for a clear and accessible tool that identifies the impact of federal spending decisions on our children. Spending on children is currently difficult to estimate because it is split between mandatory and discretionary parts of the budget and it is spread out over many departments and dozens of agencies and bureaus. We need a children’s budget that will provide a full and deliberate accounting of all of the money the federal government spends on and for children.

Each year, the Office of Management and Budget is tasked with submitting the President’s budget to Congress. As part of this process, the Executive Branch should be required to submit to Congress a comprehensive document outlining the impact the President’s proposals would have on our nation’s children. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office also has the expertise and resources necessary to conduct this type of analysis on spending across federal agencies.


The Focus on Children Act would direct the Congressional Budget Office to:


  • Provide an estimate of any piece of legislation’s expected impact on children at the request of a House or Senate committee chair or ranking member;


  • Produce several reports to Congress, including an annual report on federal spending on children, an annual report on the President’s budget’s spending on children, and warning reports regarding any fiscal year in which outlays for interest on the public debt exceed spending on children; and


  • Develop and maintain a public website that includes a dashboard highlighting key indicators and an open data portal that provides raw quantitative data on our federal spending on programs for children to the public.


The Children’s Budget Act would direct the Office of Management and Budget to provide comprehensive, separate accounting of the President’s budget spending on children. The analysis will include:


  • Summaries of the total amount of existing and proposed funding for children and children’s programs;


  • An estimate of current levels of spending on children and children’s programs; and


  • A detailed breakdown of spending on children and children’s programs by agency and initiative.


The Focus on Children Act and the Children’s Budget Act have the support of the First Focus Campaign for Children; National Association for Family, School, and Community Engagement; Child Care Aware of America; MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership; Save the Children Action Network; Communities In Schools, National Office; National Respite Coalition; CREA: Center for Reflection, Education, and Action; Media Voices for Children; the National Association of School Nurses; and Campaign for Youth Justice.


For text of the Focus on Children Act, click here.

 For text of the Children’s Budget Act, click here.