2008 Children's Defense Fund Action Council® Nonpartisan Congressional Scorecard

How well do your Members of Congress protect children? Once again, that's the question asked by the Children's Defense Fund Action Council® 2008 Annual Congressional Scorecard. We tracked votes that Senators and Representatives cast on important concerns affecting children and families last year, and each Member of Congress received a score based on how often his or her votes helped protect children.

2008 Scorecard
See how your Members of Congress voted to protect children.


scorecard brochure

Download the Scorecard Guide

How Your State Delegation Scored

Scores for Senators Up for Re-election in 2010

Votes Used in Our Scorecard (.pdf)

How the Scorecard was Compiled

Past Scorecards

CDF President Marian Wright Edelman's Child Watch® Column, "How Well Do Your Members of Congress Protect Children?"

Additional Information on How Children are Fairing in America

How Well Did Your Members of Congress Protect Children?

"The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children."
—German Protestant Theologian
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Scorecard Highlights

  • While the 2008 scores for Members of Congress generally were higher than in past years, fewer than one-third of all Senators scored 100 percent, and almost one-fourth scored 50 percent or below. Eighteen Senators failed to make a passing grade of 60 percent or higher.
  • In the House of Representatives, Members on average had a passing score, but only 166 (38 percent) scored 100 percent, and 98 (22 percent) scored 50 percent or below. Ninety-eight Representatives failed to make a passing grade of 60 percent or higher.
  • It is notable that 14 of the 23 Members of the House of Representatives who were defeated in the November 2008 election voted for children less than 70 percent of the time in 2007.

What Congress Did Right

As the Scorecard shows, there were important gains made in 2008 in helping young people pay for college, ending discrimination in the delivery of mental health care, increasing safety standards for children’s toys, expanding food stamps and other nutrition programs, and extending unemployment benefits.

There were also two bills passed in 2008 without roll call votes that included important improvements to help children in foster care and in the juvenile justice system and to dismantle the pipeline to prison: The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, among other things, increases the likelihood that children in foster care or at risk of entering foster care could be cared for permanently by extended family; and the Second Chance Act helps adults and juveniles returning to their families and communities after a period of incarceration in juvenile facilities, prisons or jails.

Where Congress Needs Improvement

While important gains were made in 2008, there are great needs that were not addressed. More than 13 million children continue to live in poverty, 5.8 million of them in extreme poverty; yet no action was taken to reduce child poverty. Nine million children are uninsured, but Congress was not able to pass legislation expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to serve even a portion of those children. Only three percent of eligible children are in Early Head Start and just over half of eligible children are in Head Start; yet funds for these important programs were not increased. A child is abused and neglected in our country every 35 seconds, and while important gains were made in supports for these children who end up in foster care, steps were not taken to prevent abuse and neglect. Despite the fact that a Black boy born in 2001 has a 1 in 3 chance of going to prison in his lifetime, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act was not reauthorized.

How the CDF Action Council Compiles This Congressional Scorecard

The 2007 Children's Defense Fund Action Council® Nonpartisan Congressional Scorecard scores ten Senate and ten House votes that directly affect the lives of children. The Senate and House votes in this year's Congressional Scorecard cover a range of issues, including the budget, appropriations, child health, education and tax relief/minimum wage measures. Members not voting and votes cast as "present" are scored as votes against children. While we acknowledge that some missed votes are unavoidable due to Member or family illness, it is not possible for us to objectively determine the reason behind each missed vote. For example, as a result of the presidential election in 2008, scores for some Members who have devoted significant time to campaigning for the upcoming election may be considerably lower than in past years. However, Members who served only part of a term are scored only on votes cast while in office. It should also be noted that the Speaker of the House holds a unique position. Although entitled to participate in debate and to vote, he or she traditionally votes only when the vote would be decisive and on matters of special importance such as constitutional amendments.

State delegation scores are calculated by adding each state's Senators' and Representatives' votes for the CDF Action Council position and dividing by the number of votes scored. Information on how a Representative or Senator voted on each selected bill comes from CQ.com, an automated Internet legislative database, and is based on the Congressional Quarterly’s record of the votes. These votes are also checked against the House and Senate roll call votes to ensure they are consistent. We hope this Nonpartisan Congressional Scorecard will serve as an important educational tool as you review the actions of your Members of Congress and make decisions about who you will elect to Congress in the future. Judge for yourself how well your Senators' and Representative's votes and actions matched their rhetoric about protecting children. We encourage you to call, write and visit your Senators and Representative in Washington, D.C., and in their district offices.

This annual Nonpartisan Congressional Scorecard is part of the CDF Action Council's public education, ongoing policy analysis and advocacy for children. It should not be taken as an endorsement of any candidate for public office.