Family Voices and families of children and youth with special health care needs and/or disabilities everywhere mourn the passing of Senator Kennedy, a friend to many and a stranger to no one who cares deeply about children and families.
Throughout his years of public service, Senator Kennedy was able to accomplish what few others have and did so repeatedly—he moved freely down the aisles of Congress, a fierce advocate and skilled negotiator, uniting many behind the shared vision of health and wellness for all. This is clearly evident in the thousands of pieces of legislation he authored over the years, but especially in those bills that have impacted families and children and youth with special health care needs: the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Family Opportunity Act of 2005 (FOA) that created legislative funding for Family to Family Health Information Centers (F2FHICs) in all the states and the District of Columbia, the Medicaid Buy-In, and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).
Betsy Anderson, Family Voices, recalls, “He was very, very committed to the Family Opportunity Act (FOA) – you could hear his voice when it passed - he was jubilant! One of the hallmarks of Senator Kennedy was that he took a personal interest in issues and regarded their success as joint endeavors, often calling to personally thank those involved. Many, many Family Voices friends and advocates worked over so many years for passage of the FOA. Some of us, his constituents as well as others, received calls from him!”
For his dedication to and tireless efforts on behalf of children and youth with special health care needs, Senator Kennedy was presented with “The Senator John Chafee Legislative Friend of Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs Award” at the Family Voices National Conference in 2001, which he accepted in person. Family Voices honored Senator Kennedy for his determined commitment to ease the burden on families who have children with special health care needs and also for his vision and leadership that has kept the issues of children and families in the spotlight. Perhaps Dan Wells (VT) said it best when he said, “Senator Kennedy wouldn't have wanted some Federal office building for his memorial, and would find no use for a statue or monument. There would be no better memorial than a law entitled "The Edward M. Kennedy Memorial Health Reform Act" that encompasses the principles he always stood for.”
We offer our deepest sympathies to the Kennedy Family and pledge, with the passion, clarity of purpose and fierce determination exhibited by Senator Kennedy, to honor his legacy by continuing our work to keep families at the center of children’s health care and to fight for quality health care that is affordable and accessible to the most vulnerable in our midst.