Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) and Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, announced the reintroduction of a pair of bills that take a holistic and community-based approach to addressing the growing crisis of childhood trauma. The lawmakers’ bills would provide critical resources for children, families, and communities to promote healing and resilience from the unprecedented trauma caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, white supremacy-fueled violence, and regulatory assaults on children by the Trump administration.
Joining Reps. Pressley and Maloney in introducing the legislation are Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Cori Bush (MO-01), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Marc Veasey (TX-33), Jim Cooper (TN-05), Jahana Hayes (CT-05), and Eleanor Homes Norton (D-DC) on the STRONG Support for Children Act, and Representatives Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Ro Khanna (CA-17), and Katie Porter (CA-45) on the Children’s Protection Act.
“Children are shouldering an unprecedented emotional burden after a year of uncertainty, loss, grief and fear. Anxiety, depression and other mental and emotional health challenges have been exacerbated, not only by the pandemic and its economic consequences, but by the persistent threat of white supremacist violence, police brutality and systemic racism,” Congresswoman Pressley said. “The STRONG Support for Children Act would provide critical resources to address childhood trauma and create pathways for our children to heal and thrive. I am grateful for Chairwoman Maloney’s close partnership to provide our children with the trauma-informed supports they deserve and require.”
“Centering the health and wellbeing of children at each level of government – from our local communities to the regulatory actions of our federal agencies – is the best thing we can do for the future of this country,” Chairwoman Maloney said. “After a year defined by a deadly pandemic, a violent insurrection, and a surge in violent white supremacy, these bills are critical to breaking the cycle of trauma that contributes to America’s mental health crisis and exacerbates inequality. Congress must pass the Children’s Protection Act and the STONG Support for Children Act to ensure that the federal government prioritizes the health and wellbeing of our children and combats the cycle of intergenerational trauma fueled by race and class discrimination. I thank Congresswoman Pressley for her partnership in continuing the work of the late Chairman Elijah E. Cummings to ensure the federal government protects our nation’s children.”
Unaddressed childhood trauma is linked to several leading causes of death in America, including heart disease, lung disease, substance use, and suicide. Studies show that exposure to poverty, homelessness, food insecurity and malnutrition, discrimination, family separation, and deportation increase the likelihood of negative health outcomes and can lead to complex trauma and toxic stress.
The Services and Trauma-Informed Research of Outcomes in Neighborhood Grants (STRONG) for Support for Children Act, led by Congresswoman Pressley, would establish two new grant programs to support local Public Health Departments in addressing trauma and ensure that programming is conveniently located and accessible to all children and families regardless of immigration status, ability to pay, and prior involvement in the criminal legal system. The legislation would prohibit grant recipients from using funds to increase surveillance and policing of vulnerable communities.
The bill is endorsed by nearly 50 grassroots organizations in Massachusetts and across the country. For the full list, click here. Read a letter of support for the STRONG Support for Children’s Act here.
The Children’s Protection Act, led by Chairwoman Maloney, would ensure that our regulatory process prioritizes the health and wellbeing of America’s children by mandating that agencies analyze and publicly disclose the impact of proposed rules on children. These analyses would be conducted by review panels with expertise in children’s health and education and experience in advocating for the health and welfare of all children. The bill is endorsed by the Children’s Environmental Health Network (CEHN), The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), First Focus on Children, Futures Without Violence, Hunger Free America, Children’s Defense Fund, Poverty & Race Research Action Council (PRRAC), and Public Citizen.
Throughout her career, Congresswoman Pressley has been a tireless advocate for trauma-conscious policymaking. In July 2019, she worked with Chairman Cummings to convene the first-ever Congressional hearings on childhood trauma. Watch Congresswoman Pressley’s full question line and follow-up questions here and here.
In March 2021, Rep. Pressley sent a letter to President Biden calling on him to address the nation’s growing trauma crisis and laying out a series of steps the administration should take to confront the far-reaching hurt plaguing our communities and our nation. In April, she published an op-ed where she reflected on the collective pain experienced by communities in her district over the past year.
As a Boston City Councilor, she convened the Council’s first-ever listening-only session to hear directly from those impacted by the trauma of community gun violence.
In December, she introduced H.R. 5325, the Ending PUSHOUT Act, to end the traumatic criminalization of Black, brown, and Indigenous girls in school. Earlier this summer, she introduced H.R. 7848, the Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act, to reduce the growing presence of school-based police officers and invest in school nurses, social workers, mental health practitioners, and other professionals trained in trauma-aware practices.