Kids can be so inspiring when they’re doing the simplest of things. Watching mine recently, as they tumbled off their respective school buses bubbling over with excitement and stories about their day, I was caught up in one of those pure and joyful parenting moments when the future seems full of possibilities.
This year, Connecticut’s children and their caregivers have real reason for optimism. Sweeping public policy changes have strengthened the critical infrastructure in place to support all of our children, and to allow their hopes and dreams to flourish.
First and foremost, Connecticut leaders took an important stand in defense of education. When Gov. Dannel Malloy and legislative leaders began , they declared state funding for our schools off the chopping block. While New York and New Jersey slashed K-12 education spending, Connecticut held the line in funding our schools. This decision made it more difficult to meet deficit-reduction goals but during a time of shrinking budgets.
Steady funds protect class size, preserve curriculum diversity and teachers’ jobs, and help mitigate property tax hikes. Our most vulnerable children are better off in 2011 as well. Children with autism will now have access to specialists who meet more rigorous certification requirements. And new legislation ensures that or act of terror, schools and day care centers have enough information to promptly reunite children with their parents. We were heartbroken to learn that following Hurricane Katrina, one child was not reunited with her parents for six months due to a lack of information.
In the , we’re reminded that disaster can strike here at home, too, and that we must be prepared. Changes are also a foot at the Department of Children and Families, where Fairfield’s own Joette Katz, a former associate justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court, now serves as Commissioner.
She has worked over the past year to restructure and streamline this once-beleaguered agency to make it more efficient and more responsive to the needs of children. Initiatives like the newly passed Foster Parent Bill of Rights and Special Study Foster Parent Placement Program are aimed at strengthening our foster care system and providing homes for the thousands of children who enter the system each year.
Connecticut has faced a year of challenges, from budget deficits and economic turmoil to storms and power outages. Sometimes it seems as if we go from one crisis to the next mired in frustration with government and our lack of progress.
But our kids, unencumbered by politics and budget negotiations, are simply hopeful and optimistic as they begin the work of a new school year. I’m reminded that as adults, we should take a cue from them – and embrace a future of possibilities.
Kim Fawcett represents the 133rd General Assembly District and serves as Vice Chairman of the Select Committee on Children.