Advent 2021: Celebrate the Alleviation of Child Poverty

Sister Eilis McCulloh, HM
December 10, 2021

The Third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete “rejoice” Sunday – pink candle) symbolizes Joy with the “Shepherd’s Candle” reminding us of the Joy the world experienced at the coming birth of Jesus. As part of NETWORK’s ongoing Advent reflection series, Sr. Eilis McCulloh, HM, NETWORK Grassroots Mobilization Fellow, shares how cutting child poverty via federal policy is one cause for rejoicing this year:

This Advent, Celebrate the Alleviation of Child Poverty

At Christmas, God appears to us as a defenseless child. In the U.S., child poverty threatens millions of children. Children are a source of joy, hope, and renewal in every life they touch. Their existence should not be marked by such suffering, and as followers of Jesus, we should answer their cry with action. Happily, in March of this year, that’s exactly what happened.

The American Rescue Plan of 2021, which NETWORK supported, made the Child Tax Credit fully refundable, meaning families who qualified for the credit have received direct payments from the government rather than having the amount counted toward their taxes at the end of the year. Those payments have reduced child poverty in the U.S. by 40 percent! The majority of the children who benefitted are children of color.

We know that the Child Tax Credit has brought stability to children whose lives have been rocked by instability, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the direct payments, families have been able to keep a roof over their heads, food on the table, and pay utility bills and, as a result, their children are able to focus more fully on school. This has the power to affect an entire generation of children.

As NETWORK prepares to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of our founding, we can look to this success as an example of the vision that animated the Catholic Sisters who gathered in Washington one cold December weekend with a vision of politics transformed by the belief that the federal government can create legislation that serves the common good. Half a century later, Pope Francis shares this vision, writing in his encyclical Fratelli Tutti that politics are “a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity.”

NETWORK will always seek this highest form of charity – better translated as love – such as in our continued lobbying for the Build Back Better bill and its provisions that will serve families, such as the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit and the four weeks of paid family leave and medical leave. This Advent, let us prepare for the arrival of Jesus by making our country a more hospitable place for all children. That’s something worth celebrating!

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