We’re often told that our children are our future. If that’s true, then our future could be rather bleak. As of the latest survey (2011), between one-fourth and one-fifth (23 percent) of our kids live in poverty, with all of the disadvantages that accompany that condition. These circumstances seldom produce desirable outcomes.
This datum, as well as all other facts stated in today’s column, comes from the “2013 Kids Count Data Book: State Trends in Child Well-Being,” published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The report also points out that nearly one-third of our children (32 percent) live in households where their parents lack secure employment, and 40 percent of all families live in households that have a high “cost burden.” The high cost burden of housing demands disposable income that might otherwise be used for food, clothing, or school supplies.
Although there has been an overall improvement in educational statistics during the six years since the last national survey, 54 percent of our kids do not attend preschool. Researchers who gathered the information write, “Early relationships and experiences help shape the architecture and wiring of the brain, creating either a sturdy or fragile foundation for a young child’s cognitive, emotional and behavioral development.”
While educational achievement has improved (but very slightly), home conditions have worsened. Today, 35 percent of the nation’s children live in single-parent families, 15 percent live in circumstances where the head of household lacks a high school diploma, and 12 percent live in high-poverty areas. The authors of the report state that “the experience of poverty and related risk factors — such as poor parenting, inadequate nutrition, frequent moves and changes in non-parental caregivers, insufficient cognitive stimulation and unsafe environments — can actually suppress brain development and have lasting effects.”...