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Poverty is a fact of life for more Americans than at any time since the early 1960s, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Not surprisingly, a huge number of those poor Americans are children. In many cases, one or both parents work but cannot earn enough to break out of a poverty cycle.For the first time in our history, we are raising significant numbers of children who will point to homeless shelters across our land - still the richest in the world - as one of their early homes.

Affordable housing is scarce for poor families. Waiting lists for subsidized housing continue to grow.

Others have homes, but they are hungry, abused, ill or have miscellaneous devastating problems that most people would like to pretend do not exist.

Members of the Coalition for America's Children want to make the lives of our youngest citizens an election-year issue. They have launched a campaign called "Who's for Kids and Who's Just Kidding?"

They ask one thing: They want voters to find out where candidates stand on the subject of children's welfare in general before they ever enter polling booths. They want the answer to drive electoral decisions.

Children's issues are broad, including questions about education, like what to do about class sizes that are too large and how to increase competency in core subjects like reading, math and science.

There are even more basic questions like why thousands of children in Utah - and across the United States, in fact - go to bed hungry.

The list of questions goes on:

Why does child abuse seem to be on the rise and what do the candidates intend to do about it?

Are gangs an issue and how do the prospective officials hope to crack down on them?

How would they keep drugs away from schools and youths in general?

Teenagers are having babies and the vast majority of those children will grow up in poverty. Nationally, 57 percent of kids under 18 have had sexual re-la-tion-ships.

Numbers are not available for Utah, but experts says it is high. Besides the risk of pregnancy, and various moral issues, sexually active youths are contracting serious and even deadly diseases. What can be done?

Thousand of families, including children, have no health insurance and limited or no access to medical care. Will candidates do something about that?

Poor women are less apt to get early prenatal care, which can result in low birth-weight babies or other complications. Many of those complications are extremely costly in terms of dollars and quality of life. Do would-be officials have plans to make prenatal care more readily available?

Divorce has become commonplace. In its wake, thousands of children have been left without the court-ordered child support that could keep them out of poverty. Offending absentee parents are both male and female. Will something be done about that?

There are also issues that pertain to fewer children but are just as devastating.

For instance, experts agree that intervention in the form of special services is essential for disabled children before they ever go to school if they are to make the most of their abilities and have the best life possible. How would the candidates, if elected, make sure those services are available?

Mental illness is a fact of life for many even very young children. Will that be a priority?

A concerned electorate will have no trouble coming up with other questions that affect children. Many of the issues that seem like they are important to adults, like unemployment numbers, cannot help but affect the children in a family.

We tell ourselves, sometimes with a smug edge to our voices, that our children are the future. We love them. We don't always take the time to ask what kind of future that will be.

The polling booth seems like as good a place as any to vote on that important topic.

It's a serious question: Who's for kids and who's just kidding?