Media CenterCRS Celebrates The Global Child Thrive Act's Passage Into Law

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Nikki Gamer
Catholic Relief Services
[email protected]
(978) 884-0003

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND, Jan. 1, 2021 – Catholic Relief Services (CRS) hails the passage of The Global Child Thrive Act into law this week, following a bipartisan Congressional effort and a two-year advocacy push that helped get the bill over the finish line.

The new law mandates that early childhood development activities be integrated into relevant U.S. foreign aid programs. Such activities, such as teaching parents the importance of pairing proper nutrition with mental stimulation like singing and reading, support children’s development in the early years when critical brain architecture is built. These activities also build a child’s resilience to unforeseeable challenges such as growing food insecurity. The law’s passage comes at an especially critical time, with experts warning that children in marginalized countries could be hardest hit by the secondary impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“By passing this bill into law, we’re saying to children everywhere, ‘You matter,’” said Bill O’Keefe, CRS’ executive vice president of Mission, Mobilization and Advocacy. “We’re tremendously grateful to our supporters across the country—especially those in our CRS chapters—as well as to all the Congressional lawmakers who worked across the aisle to make this happen.”

The effects of a poor start on a child’s development are profound. The most rapid and critical brain development process occurs between a child’s prenatal years to age three. A report published in The Lancet found that an estimated 250 million children in developing countries are at risk of suboptimal development caused by poverty, nutritional deficiencies and inadequate learning opportunities. When a child’s early development is delayed, they are more likely to suffer from poor health, nutrition, education and low earnings as a working adult.

CRS implements early childhood development programs in 20 countries worldwide, serving more than a million children and families.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, The Global Child Thrive Act was championed by lead-sponsors Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and supported by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY) and ranking member Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX). In the U.S. Senate, efforts were led by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Sen. Christopher Coons (D-DE). Additionally, the bill was assisted by key committee leaders and an array of senators.

Catholics and other supporters worked diligently to get the Global Child Thrive Act passed in both the House and Senate as part of CRS’ Lead the Way on Migration and Lead the Way on Hunger campaigns. Advocates for the bill’s passage also included the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the THRIVE coalition.

“While this win is certainly a testament to the power of Congressional bipartisanship, it’s also a testament to the power of the constituent voice,” O’Keefe said. “Our supporters put their faith into action by advocating for this bill’s passage. Their tireless efforts have shown us that by working together, we can help children worldwide achieve their God-given potential."


Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. CRS’ relief and development work is accomplished through programs of emergency response, HIV, health, agriculture, education, microfinance and peacebuilding. For more information, visit or and follow Catholic Relief Services on social media in English at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube; and in Spanish at: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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Nikki Gamer

Senior Public Affairs Manager

Nikki Gamer
January 1, 2021

Based in Baltimore, MD

Nikki is the Senior Public Affairs Manager for CRS and connects journalists to regional stories and sources related to the agency’s life-saving development work. Previously, Nikki worked as the Communications Officer for the Middle East, Europe, and Central Asia. She has covered CRS’ response to the Syrian refugee crisis and the mass displacement...More