CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Officials with the "Our Children, Our Future" campaign plan to press lawmakers to protect funding for family support programs and to expand in-home family education and early childhood development programs in an effort to help end child poverty.
The campaign's platform also includes increasing the minimum wage and the Earned Income Tax Credit, addressing physical activity and recess in schools, creating a future fund and developing substance abuse prevention and recovery initiatives.
Over the past six months, about 75 meetings have been held across the state to narrow down what issues the campaign, through the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition, should focus on, said Karen Williams, who is involved with the campaign.
"I feel like the poverty war is now being waged on the people it was designed to help," Williams, a former director of Headstart for Kanawha County Schools, said.
Campaign organizers took suggestions from nearly 200 groups around the state and reached out to families to come up with "concrete actions," Williams said.
The group plans to take its concerns to lawmakers and had invited them to attend Tuesday's meeting, held at Simpson Memorial United Methodist Church. Only Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, attended.
Bill Johnson said he didn't know what his family would do without the Headstart program offered at Richmond Elementary School. His autistic daughter blossomed because of the social skills she learned through Headstart, he said.
Last year, thousands of dollars were slashed from Headstart's budget, Williams said.
"I'm told the money taken away from Headstart is now being placed back," she said.
Carolyn Wesley, with the Roosevelt Center, stressed the importance of in-home educational programs. The programs promote child well-being, improve school readiness and prevent adverse childhood experiences such as abuse and neglect.