The Family Bill of Rights: a new economic policy for my first 100 days in office

We must ease the financial burden on families and help level the playing field for children, no matter who they are or where they live

Kirsten Gillibrand
May 22, 2019 · 7 min read

America can’t succeed unless families do. And our government only works if it works for families — not special interests, corporations, or the very wealthy. But right now, too many families are struggling to make ends meet, and too many children are being held back before they even get to kindergarten.

The resources and care available at the start of a child’s life have a crucial impact on their health, safety, development, and future success — but not every child starts on equal footing. Families and kids face huge disparities in opportunity and resources depending on their income and zip code, and the gap is wider for families of color. That isn’t fair, and it isn’t acceptable.

We need to level the playing field in the first, critical years of a child’s life, and ease the enormous financial burdens that families face when they raise a child.

So today I’m announcing my new economic policy platform, which I would enact in my first 100 days as president: the Family Bill of Rights. It guarantees a set of fundamental rights to give every child the chance to succeed — no matter what block they grow up on.

The Family Bill of Rights would make it easier for everyone to start a family — regardless of your income, race, or gender — and ensure that every child can reach their full potential. We’ll pay for it with a financial transaction tax, which would raise over $777 billion in the next decade.

The Family Bill of Rights

The Family Bill of Rights is a set of five fundamental rights, backed up by bold policy proposals:

1. The right to a safe and healthy pregnancy

The U.S. has the highest rate of pregnancy-related deaths in the industrialized world, and black women are 3–4 times more likely to die during or after childbirth than white women. These are largely preventable deaths — they’re generally caused by a lack of supplies, insufficient training, and the institutional racism and bias that put women of color at risk. I’ll make sure states and hospitals are equipped to prevent and respond to pregnancy complications.

And I’ll address the severe shortage of OB-GYNs in rural areas to make it safer to have a child no matter where you live. My plan will be modeled off of former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp’s legislation to study maternal health data from rural communities, develop better training for rural health facilities, and fix the shortage by making it easier and cheaper to train new OB-GYNs.

2. The right to give birth or adopt a child, regardless of income or sexual orientation

Depending on your sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, or income level, conceiving or adopting a child can be hard or out of reach altogether. But having or adopting a child should be a fundamental right if a parent wants one — and there are more than 400,000 children in the foster care system with over 120,000 waiting for a permanent family. If there are families ready and willing to bring a child in need into a loving home, no barrier — whether it’s cost or discrimination — should stand in their way.

I would ensure that taxpayer-funded adoption and child welfare agencies can’t discriminate against foster or adoptive families, whatever their gender or sexual orientation. And I would provide a tax credit to ensure that a family’s ability to adopt and provide a stable home for a child isn’t dependent on their wealth.

Many families, including LGBTQ couples, can’t conceive a baby independently, and fertility treatments are expensive and often out of reach. These services should be accessible and affordable for any family that needs them, so I would also require insurance companies to cover treatments like IVF.

3. The right to a safe and affordable nursery

The costs of raising and safely caring for a newborn can be daunting, and too many families simply can’t afford it. I will launch a new program to provide “baby bundles” for new parents so that all new families, regardless of income, can start off on the right foot with the supplies they need. These bundles will be filled with the most important items for a child’s first month at home, like diapers, swaddle blankets, and onesies, all in a box with a small mattress that can be repurposed as a nursery bed.

Finland has dramatically lowered its rates of infant mortality as a result of its baby bundle program. And here at home, Ohio, Alabama, New Jersey, and Texas all offer a version of the program for new families.

4. The right to personally care for your loved ones while still getting paid, including care for your child in its infancy

Too many people face the impossible choice between earning a paycheck or caring for their family members who need them, whether it’s a newborn baby or an aging parent. It’s past time we create a national paid family and medical leave insurance program, so that everyone can take the time they need to be with their loved ones without having to worry about how they’ll pay the bills.

And I would ensure that every child has the right to health care, by making the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) universal. I would automatically enroll every child in CHIP at birth — with an option for opting out — and give them access to Medicaid’s Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT), a comprehensive benefit program that is the best health coverage available for children.

5. The right to affordable child care and early education before kindergarten is available publicly

The first three years of a child’s life are the most crucial for cognitive development, directly informing educational success as they grow up. One of the biggest indicators of that development is the words a child learns by age three — and there is a 30 million word gap between low-income children and children from wealthy families. This is an injustice we can’t accept for any of our kids.

Every child deserves the same opportunities to learn, grow and reach their potential — which is why I would enact universal pre-K and expand the Child and Dependent Care tax credit so that families can afford safe, high-quality child care. My plan would also professionalize at-home and day care, expand access to early education for children with disabilities, and support child care workers.

Why I’m committed to this platform

I’m committed to enacting the Family Bill of Rights in my first 100 days as president because at its core, this is an economic issue.

I meet people every day on the campaign trail who tell me their number one concern is how to make ends meet for their family and give their children the best future they can. And I’ve talked to young people who would love to have a family, but they have no idea how they’ll make it work. We should make it easier to raise a family in America, and fighting for families should be the number one concern of the president of the United States, too.

For too long, crucial issues that inform the well-being of whole families and communities — from paid leave to child care to maternal health care — have been dismissed as secondary issues or “women’s issues.” I’ve spent my career fighting for those issues as what they are: front-and-center determinants of our whole country’s economic security, opportunity, and success.

This proposal will help combat some of the most fundamental and persistent inequities facing families in America. It will help tackle the quiet crisis of black maternal mortality so black women aren’t needlessly dying in childbirth. It will guarantee paid family leave for all, including the women of color who make up two-thirds of minimum wage workers in the U.S., many of whom can’t afford to take time off to care for newborn babies or sick children. And it will ensure every child has access to pre-K, so that no one enters kindergarten already behind. The plan doesn’t solve every problem, but makes major strides to level the playing field for every child.

I’m running for president because I want to fight for everyone’s families like I fight for my own, and that’s what this plan is about. Every family in America should be guaranteed these basic, fundamental rights to ensure their children’s health, opportunity, and futures.


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