Jennifer Garner grew emotional while testifying in front of Congress members to promote awareness for early childhood education and poverty across the nation.
The Dallas Buyers Club star was invited to Washington, D.C. on Thursday (16Mar17) to speak at the House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Subcommittee’s hearing because of the work she does with the Save the Children charity. The actress has travelled all over the U.S. to observe how poverty affects families.
“I make a point to try and get out and do as many site visits as possible,” she said. “Mothers come up to me and say, ‘Can you help get my child into these programs? Can you just nudge us up in the wait list? Is there anything you could do?’
“The thought that I would have to go back to these mothers and say, ‘Well, no, there is nothing I can do’…,” she added while her voice cracked with emotion. “These families know what it is to have this intervention and they know what they’re losing when it’s gone and I’ll have to answer to it, so that is what matters to me, selfishly.”
Jennifer also recalled an emotional story about visiting an 11-month-old’s home and noticing the child did not turn away from the TV when the actress arrived with a charity representative. She explained the child’s reaction was most likely due to the parent’s lack of attention.
“A child who is not touched, who is not spoken to, who is not read to or sung to in the first five years of his or her life will not fully recover,” she said. “Neglect can be every bit as harmful as abuse. When many of these children enter kindergarten (school), they don’t know their letters and numbers. They don’t know how to sit in a circle or listen to a story, they don’t know how to hold a book. They may have never even seen a book.”
And she insisted the family’s issues were part of a larger problem in society.
“It’s easy to escape responsibility for disgrace like that by blaming the parents,” she said. “Who doesn’t talk to a child? Who doesn’t sing to their child? I’ll tell you who. Parents who have lived their whole lives with the stresses that come with food scarcity, with lack of adequate shelter, with drug addiction and abuse. Parents who were left on the floor when they were children, ignored by their parents who had to choose as one out of three mothers in this country do, between providing food or a clean diaper for their children. Poverty dulls the senses, it saps hope, it destroys the will.”
She went on to urge the politicians to make “significant investment in high-quality childhood education, proven effective programs…, childcare development block grants, preschool development grants and home visitation models… (so that) we can intervene in these children’s lives in time to make a difference.
“These children don’t vote, they don’t make political contributions, neither do their parents,” she said. “Somebody has to tell their story above all the noise. Poverty is silent, but I can’t be.”
This is the second time in weeks the actress has spoken with U.S. politicians to lobby for the cause – in February (17), the mum of three met with lawmakers’ top staffers with the aim of boosting early years education in rural America. She also delivered the keynote address before the annual winter meeting of the National Governors Association.