The following is from a speech delivered by Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez (D-N.Y.) at the Invest In Our Children Initiative press conference March 26.

The single most important factor in determining the future of this nation is our children. If we fail to invest in today’s young people, we can be sure that tomorrow’s adults will not live up to their fullest potential.

One of my top priorities since entering Congress has been to ensure affordable, quality child care for our nation’s most needy families. We are in the midst of a child care crisis. Every day in New York, one out of every four children lives in poverty and more than 50,000 children are on a waiting list for public child care.

To make matters worse, President Bush recently unveiled a welfare reform plan that hurts families. His plan makes it harder for families to move from welfare to work. And it hurts children who need the guiding influence of their parents. This is a bad plan coming at a bad time – a time when almost 60,000 families face being removed from the rolls, and unemployment and homelessness have reached record highs in New York.

Women, more than anyone else, know how hard it is to raise and provide for a family. Society expects so much from them – now they must be mother, daughter, sister and breadwinner. The women here can do it because they are strong – but nobody will say it is easy.

Unfortunately, this new Bush plan will make it even harder to be all these things. The President wants you to work even more. But he won’t give you anything more to help you do it. His plan will require more mothers to work 40 hours a week – but there will be no more assistance for child care.

Given the choice, mothers know what is most important – your kids always come first. Without child care, many women won’t be able to meet these strict new work requirements.

What’s worse? Single parents have to work 40 hours, but married individuals only have to work 20 hours. Single parents need more time at home, not less. This plan requires twice the work from parents who have half the help!

Is this the same administration that claimed to put “families first”?

This must change.

I am leading the charge by launching my Invest in Our Children Initiative today, a renewed push to protect the rights of children both in New York and nationwide.

A first step in helping children is to help their parents by increasing child care funding – by telling Congress to find an additional $1 billion to provide this vital support to single-parent families struggling to make ends meet.

But this is just the beginning of the fight. I also have a welfare reform plan to eliminate the five-year lifetime limit on these benefits. My plan would open up welfare to legal immigrants, who were cut off by the 1996 welfare reform law. Just like any other American, they deserve to benefit from help in bad times, which they support in good times.

I hope everyone here will join me in fighting for America’s families. It won’t be an easy thing to do. But it wouldn’t be worth the fight if it were easy! Moms know all about that. But we must oppose the President’s welfare reform plan under his so-called “compassionate conservatism” agenda. We must show that there is nothing compassionate about weighing down single parents, hurting children and excluding immigrants.

True compassion means giving real help to our must vulnerable families. It means making sure that working mothers struggling to provide for their children have the resources they need in place – such as quality, affordable child care so they know their kids are safe when they are away from home. We must invest in our children today because they are the future of tomorrow.