Your May 12 editorial, “Our View: Maine children need solid foundations” (Page D3), did an excellent job in showing how childhood success or failure carry into adulthood. Gov. Mills is well aware of this relationship, hence her reinstatement of the Children’s Cabinet, meant to ensure that state government coordinates its efforts in addressing the challenges facing children and their parents. It’s also meant to inform and engage the public.

Here’s a bit of history the governor could draw from to advance greater public investments in children:

In 1909, President Theodore Roosevelt convened the first ever White House Conference on Children. Priority issues included child labor, infant mortality and orphanages. This was the first of White House Conferences on Children that were convened in Washington, D.C., every 10 years. Each state prepared a list of the most urgent children’s issues they wanted addressed nationally, which were debated by all in an attempt to form consensus. A document emerged, meant to guide the president and the Congress for the decade ahead. The last national White House conference was in 1970. I was a delegate. I recall the spirited debate among attendees, who knew their work would be taken seriously.

In 1981, then-Gov. Joseph E. Brennan hosted the first ever Blaine House Conference on Children, Youth and Families. Staffed by what was then the Department of Human Services, the conference was attended by hundreds who debated children’s issues for two days, helping state government shape its priorities.

Now that the Children’s Cabinet has been re-established, the governor or Cabinet should consider hosting a Blaine House Conference outlining her priorities, and to hear the priorities of delegations from each of the 16 counties.

We know much about how to produce healthy outcomes for children, but little progress is achieved if political will is lacking. A Blaine House conference could change that.

Michael R. Petit


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