Missing Kids, Lost Caucus

One of the more active youth-related caucuses is the Missing and Exploited Children’s Caucus. A bipartisan group

listing nearly 150 members on its official web site (www.house.gov/lampson/), the caucus goals are to build issue awareness, create a voice within Congress and work on child abduction issues within member districts. The caucus hosts numerous events, briefings, public awareness campaigns and child safety programs. Chaired by founding members Reps. Nick Lampson (D-Tex.) and Bud Cramer (D-Ala.), each office has assigned staff to caucus activities.  Yet none of these offices would answer questions about caucus funding or organizational structure. CMECC.htm

Funding is one of the more challenging concerns for congressional caucuses, and perhaps a significant reason there are far fewer devoted to children and youth issues than to other political hot topics. Once upon a time, caucuses could have offices, staff and money to organize programs.  The 104th  changed that; now caucuses are not allowed such amenities. The Congressional Children’s Working Group was one of only a handful of the 200 or so caucuses to focus on issues related to children and youth, and yet it essentially disbanded in 1995.

Founded by Rep. Tim Roemer (D-Ind.), the working group consisted mainly of parents in Congress who wanted a forum to support legislation that “promotes the welfare of children.”  The group is no longer active, due, primarily, to the loss of funding for caucus operations. Says Roemer staffer Pete Spiro, “When the Republicans cut our funds, we could not continue to function.”

But the rule change prompted other caucuses, like the Congressional Women’s Caucus, to restructure. It split into two organizations: a members-only Women’s Caucus, and nonprofit policy organization, Women’s Policy, Inc., currently headed by Cynthia Hall (www.womenspolicy.org).

When asked about caucuses that have affected youth-related issues, many congressional staffers point to the Women’s Caucus and  Women’s Policy, Inc.  Both have focused on issues such as child support, reproductive rights and family concerns, as well as education, job training and domestic violence. 

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