Families & Children
As a mother, I know that parents have an increasingly difficult job in today's world. The economic pressures, the time demands, the many outside influences that affect even the youngest children - all of these, and more, make this an especially challenging time for American families.
All parents want to protect their children and make sure they have the best possible chance to grow up and succeed in life. But in these difficult economic times, too many Minnesota families are struggling to make ends meet - squeezed by unemployment, rising health care costs, soaring home mortgage payments, escalating gas prices, mounting bills for child care and college tuition. And an ever-increasing number of families find themselves bearing the responsibility of caring for their aging parents at the same time they are trying to raise their children.
Ultimately, our national well-being - our economic prosperity and our quality of life - depends on the strength of our families. It is a legitimate function of our government to support strong families and make sure parents have the tools they need to protect their children and do what's best for them.
I will continue to work to make sure that our children grow up healthy and safe and that our families have the resources they need to deal successfully with today's challenges.
As Minnesota's U.S. Senator, I will continue to focus on these priorities:
- Protecting children from unsafe products. Parents should be able to trust that the products they buy for their children are safe. Consumers deserve products that have been tested and meet strong health and safety standards. As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, I am fighting to make sure that the federal agencies charged with keeping Americans safe are vigilant in doing their job to protect all American consumers from hazardous products.
- Assisting families in caring for seniors. Almost 10 million seniors today need some type of long-term care. Seniors want to be able to live independently and stay in their own homes as long as possible and family support is essential to making that option available. And while nursing homes and paid care providers serve our elderly in some situations, the vast majority of elder care comes from informal care givers - more than half of whom are adult children taking care of their parents. Millions of families already find themselves as members of the "sandwich generation," coping with the challenges and costs of care for elderly parents at the same time they are caring for their own children. As the baby boom generation ages, the numbers will continue to grow. Just as the country addressed the needs of working moms and dads in the 1970s, we must now address the needs of our working daughters and sons.
- Strengthening oversight of court-appointed guardians and long-term care workers. As the population of seniors continues to grow in Minnesota, the need for strong protection from abuse for our elders becomes more critical each year. Most long-term care workers adhere to ethical standards that ensure the safety and well-being of their clients. However, there are cases when long-term care workers do not have the interests of seniors in mind. In these instances, too many vulnerable adults are abused and financially exploited by court-appointed guardians and conservators - the very individuals charged with protecting their well-being. We owe it to our seniors to ensure that they are not endangered - physically, emotionally, or financially - by those responsible for their care.
- Supporting families and children through adoption. Like so many Minnesotans, I share the belief that every child should have a safe home and a loving family. As County attorney and now as Senator, I have worked to expedite adoptions and assist families who are adopting children. Minnesota has a strong tradition of welcoming orphans from around the world and holds the highest per capita rate of international adoption. International adoptions should be as straightforward and affordable as possible for American families. In addition, we must ensure that adoptive families - regardless of whether they are adopting here at home or internationally - have the full support and services they may need throughout the adoption process.
- Expanding higher education opportunities. Minnesotans have always believed that investing in higher education pays extraordinary dividends. The cost of college has more than tripled in the last 20 years. Tuition at four-year public colleges in Minnesota has increased 100 percent in just the past ten years. Skyrocketing costs prevent many qualified students from attending college and force many others to end their education prematurely. At the same time, student loan debt has spun out of control, becoming a crippling financial burden to many young people and their families. It is time to provide real help for students and their families to make college more affordable. I am fighting to gain stronger federal support for higher education opportunities - because our future success as a state and a nation depends on making sure that quality education is accessible and affordable.
- Keeping children safe from predators - both on the streets and on the Internet. In a fast-changing society, parents need all the help they can get to protect their children from emerging threats to their safety. I know there are criminals who are intent on victimizing children. Federal support is essential for local law enforcement and the criminal justice system to make sure sex offenders and other potential predators can be identified before they are able to prey on any victims.
- Ensuring our children receive proper nutrition.Our children need proper nutrition so that they grow into healthy and active adults. Childhood obesity has become a national health issue, with an estimated one out of every three children in the U.S. between the ages of two and 19 overweight or at risk of becoming overweight. Ensuring that children have access to nutritious food is critical not only for their own well-being, but for the well-being of our nation. By promoting healthy lifestyles early, we can combat childhood obesity and improve children's health across the country.
- Making our roads and highways safer. Too many drivers are texting behind the wheel or driving while under the influence or distracted, instead of focusing on the road. The consequences of bad driving are devastating and demand greater action by us all - no text message is worth dying for. As a former prosecutor, I know how important it is to keep our roads safe, and I will continue to work to enact laws that address distracted driving. This is particularly important for teen drivers. Motor vehicle crashes are the number one killer of American teens, and drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 years old are four times more likely to get in a crash than older drivers per mile driven. We must encourage safe practices and smart programs for training new drivers.
As Minnesota's U.S. Senator, I've been fighting to support families and children:
- Passing the most sweeping reform of our consumer product safety laws in decades. I was a chief author of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008, which was signed into law in August 2008, to give the Consumer Product Safety Commission the additional authority, resources, and staff to enforce consumer protection laws. The law contains three important provisions I crafted:
- The first bans lead in children's products. Believe it or not, until the law was enacted there had been no mandatory federal lead standard for children's products.
- The second provision requires companies to stamp "batch numbers" on children's products and their packaging, so that parents can quickly identify when products in their homes have been recalled by the government for safety reasons.
- The third bans industry-paid travel by members and staff of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Consumers must have confidence that their consumer regulators are free of influence from the industries they supervise.
- Passing a new law to protect children from unsafe swimming pools. In December 2007 President Bush signed into law legislation that I helped write to improve the safety of our nation's public swimming pools. I took a personal interest in the issue of dangerous swimming pool drains after a horrific incident in the summer of 2007, when six-year-old Abigail Taylor of Edina, Minnesota, was partly disemboweled by the powerful suction of a wading pool drain. After months of surgeries and hospital care, Abigail tragically died from complications from those injuries. It turns out this was not an isolated incident. Government statistics show dozens of cases in which children were injured or trapped by the powerful suction of these pool drains. Yet, legislation to correct the problem had been stalled in Congress for years.
After consulting with the Taylor family and national child safety experts, I wrote two crucial amendments to the pool safety legislation that had been pending before Congress for years. One made tough new safety standards retroactive to existing pools that are intended for public use and the other required public pools with single drains to install the latest drain safety technology. Both amendments were included in the final bill. One of my proudest moments as a senator was the night I called Abigail's father, Scott Taylor, to tell him we had adopted the legislation and that President Bush was signing it into law.
- Expanding health care coverage for children. I supported the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009, which extended health coverage to children who do not qualify for Medicaid and whose families cannot afford private insurance. The passage of this legislation, which was signed into law by President Obama in February 2009, ensures health care coverage for an additional 4.1 million uninsured children.
- Strengthening our childhood nutrition programs. I helped lead the passage of the bipartisan Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was signed into law in December 2010, to overhaul the major domestic food assistance programs that serve the nutritional needs of 29 million American children each day. This law expands access to child nutrition programs to address childhood obesity, improves the nutritional quality of meals to promote health, and will help reduce childhood hunger. The law also includes my legislation to improve nutrition standards for meals served in the Child and Adult Care Food Program, and to provide health education and guidance for childcare providers. I also fought to require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to set new nutrition standards for all food served in schools, from lunchrooms to vending machines
- Advocating for adoptive families and children. I have been working hard both in Washington and right here in Minnesota to advocate for adoptive families and children. In particular, my office has worked closely with adoptive Minnesota families to help them bring their children home from countries such as Guatemala, Vietnam, Ethiopia, and Russia. I have worked to help families impacted by the Russian government's ban on American adoption of Russian children, and have called on the Russian government to allow for the completion of adoption cases that were initiated prior to the ban. Following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, Minnesota families who had pending Haitian adoptions began contacting my office for help bringing their children home. Some orphanages had been damaged or destroyed in the quake, and parents were frantic to make sure their kids were safe - and to get them to the United States quickly. Over the course of approximately two months following the earthquake, my office worked with 25 families to help unite 39 Haitian children with their new families in Minnesota. I also fought to make the Adoption Tax Credit permanent, which in 2013 can provide as much as $12,970 to help families afford an adoption or meet the needs of a child post-adoption.
- Making college more affordable. I helped pass the College Cost Reduction Act, which was signed into law by President Bush in September 2007, to make it easier for students and families to pay for college by raising the maximum Pell Grant to $5,100 and $5,400 by 2012, protecting borrowers by capping monthly loan payments at 15 percent of discretionary income, and cutting student loan interest rates in half for subsidized Stafford Loans by 2011. In July 2012 I helped pass a law that prevented student loan rates from doubling for more than 200,000 Minnesota students. The College Cost Reduction Act legislation also encourages public service through a loan repayment program for those who commit to service as teachers, prosecutors, non-profit employees and a host of other public service positions and serve in a public service capacity for 10 years. I helped pass the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, which makes higher education more affordable by removing private lenders from the federal student loan system and saving taxpayers nearly $68 billion in the coming years. This law also expands Pell Grants and invests in community colleges for education and career training programs. In addition, I have been a strong supporter of TRIO programs that continue to provide fundamental support to low-income and first-generation students across Minnesota as they prepare to attend college.
- Treating young immigrants with fairness and compassion. Providing a path for young immigrants to stay in the country should be a key part of comprehensive immigration reform. I have been a co-sponsor of the DREAM Act which allows immigrants brought to the United States as children, through no fault of their own, to stay in the only country they consider home. The legislation would require that the immigrants have good moral character and attend college or serve in the military.
- Assisting families in caring for seniors. I introduced the Americans Giving Care to Elders Act, which would establish a federal tax credit to assist with the costs of caring for an aging family member and would help expand programs such as the National Family Caregivers Support Program, which provide education, guidance and support to people taking care of loved ones with long-term care needs. I�m also a cosponsor of the Alzheimer�s Breakthrough Act, which would strengthen federal support of Alzheimer�s research and increase the focus on clinical treatments for people with the disease.
- Protecting seniors from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. I authored the Guardian Accountability and Senior Protection Act, which pushes for stronger screening and oversight of court-appointed guardians for seniors and persons with disabilities. I also supported the Elder Justice Act, which was incorporated into the health care reform bill that passed in 2010. The bill establishes the Elder Justice Program to prevent the abuse, neglect, and exploitation of the elderly by providing block grants to states to properly train and certify employees at long-term care facilities. I also supported the Patient Safety and Abuse Prevention Act to improve authorities' ability to conduct criminal background checks on long-term care workers.
- Banning synthetic drugs. One study found that one in nine high schools students in America admitted to using synthetic marijuana in the past year. I introduced the Combating Designer Drugs Act to ban the substance known as 2C-E, a synthetic hallucinogen, and eight other similar substances. This legislation was a response to an incident in March 2011 where a Minnesota teenager died and ten others were hospitalized after overdosing on 2C-E. I also cosponsored two additional pieces of legislation to ban synthetic marijuana and bath salts. These bills banning dangerous synthetic drugs were signed into law in July 2012.
- Allowing for safe disposal of prescription drugs. I authored the bipartisan Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act, which was signed into law by President Obama in October 2010, to provide consumers with safe and responsible ways to dispose of unused controlled substances. This law allows individuals and long-term care facilities to deliver the most dangerous prescription drugs to law enforcement officials for safe disposal and also promotes the development and expansion of drug take-back programs.
- Shielding children from inappropriate content. I support V-Chip, Internet filters, and other new technology that give parents greater control over what their kids see on television and what they can do on the Internet. As a cosponsor of the KIDS Act, I will continue to fight for additional protections to safeguard children against online predators.
- Supporting victims of assault, abuse, and stalking. I cosponsored and helped lead the effort to pass the bipartisan Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act in March of 2013, which updated the landmark legislation that has had a profound role in protecting women and supporting the victims of sexual and domestic violence. The new law includes the provisions from my bipartisan STALKERS Act to improve federal anti-stalking laws and protect victims by providing prosecutors with the tools to combat the growing threat of cyberstalking. I also supported the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Database Act, which was signed into law in 2006 and established a publicly available national database of sex offenders. I have also worked to combat the heartbreaking crime of child abuse by introducing the National Child Protection Training Act, which would help train child protection professionals such as teachers, doctors and prosecutors to detect and prevent child abuse.
- Helping law enforcement find missing children. I authored the bipartisan Access to Information about Missing Children Act with Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas to help federal, state, and local law enforcement locate missing children whose whereabouts could be discovered though basic information on federal tax returns. This legislation has been supported by Patty Wetterling, my friend and child-safety advocate, whose son Jacob was kidnapped near his family�s home in St. Joseph, Minnesota in 1989.
- Improving teen driver safety. Mile for mile, teenagers are involved in three times as many fatal car crashes as other drivers. Becoming a safe driver requires experience and practice. To help reduce teen driving deaths, I introduced the Students Taking Action for Road Safety (STARS) Act to use peer-to-peer prevention strategies to educate teens about the dangers of everything from drunk driving to speeding to using seatbelts to texting while driving. This bill will help bring together law enforcement, educators, and local communities to give our teen drivers the tools they need to become responsible drivers and make our roads safer. I also joined Senator Gillibrand to introduce the STAND Up Act to encourage states to adopt Graduated Driver License programs that have proven effective at reducing the crash risk of new drivers by introducing teens to the driving experience gradually, phasing in full driving privileges over time in lower risk settings, and educating how to eliminate distractions that cause accidents. Provisions from both of these bills were included in the Surface Transportation reauthorization bill that was signed into law in July 2012.
Joint Economic Committee Reports
- Investing in Raising Children
- Investing in a College Education
- Investing in Families Taking Care of Elderly Parents
Senator Klobuchar’s Offices
302 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Main Line: 202-224-3244
Main Fax: 202-228-2186
Toll Free: 1-888-224-9043
1200 Washington Avenue South, Room 250
Minneapolis, MN 55415
Main Line: 612-727-5220
Main Fax: 612-727-5223
Toll Free: 1-888-224-9043
1130 1/2 7th Street NW, Room 208
Rochester, MN 55901
Main Line: 507-288-5321
121 4th Street South
Moorhead, MN 56560
Main Line: 218-287-2219
Olcott Plaza, Room 105
820 9th Street North
Virginia, MN 55792
Main Line: 218-741-9690