Children should come first in Virginia.
Advocates from across the state were in Richmond Tuesday pushing legislators to make the needs of children their number one issue. They say the future of Virginia lies solely in how we take care of them today.
Tough economic times in Virginia have caused major problems across the state. And, this is why a group advocates for children say as the legislators make budget decisions, they need to make them from the perspective of a parent.
"Just as any family with responsible parents would say," said Suzanne Clark Johnson of Voices for Virginia's Children, "if we are cutting our budget, we must not forget the needs of our children."
Not forgetting the needs of children is the mission of this group. Early learning, health and the prevention of violence are areas of concern.
Twenty-seven percent of Virginia's kindergarten students enter school without the basic knowledge and skills needed to succeed. One in four children don't have a primary care physician and 47 percent of males and 57 percent of females who are incarcerated by the Department of Juvenile Justice have mental health needs.
Officials say less money can be spent on the programs if applied early.
"Do we want to spend it on the back end of the system on prisons and police officers," said Andrew Block Legal Director of JustChild Program, "Or do we want to spend it on the front end of the system with early childhood education and health care."
Officials say if the state put the needs of children number one on their list of priorities, it will be the best solution to Virginia's future budget problems.
"It's no better investment that we can make in Virginia's future then to insure our kids get off to a healthy start," said Del. Robert Brink (D) of the 48th District, "It's a no brainier that healthier kids grow stronger, study better and spend more time in school."