Childhood is a crucial time in an individual’s development, worthy of every protection and long-term investment we can offer as a society. In terms of health, safety, malnutrition, addiction and schooling, however, we are collectively dropping the ball on behalf of our nation’s children. We are not confronting child advocacy with the requisite care and scrutiny it so clearly warrants and as a result much too many of our young people are put at risk, both emotionally and physically. The situation is an emergency that must be remedied as the status quo cannot continue.
Many people in this country may not perceive the magnitude of long-standing trauma our children are enduring every day, however the reality is stark and this trauma does not get treated. Millions of children are without health care, lack regular access to adequate and nutritious food while attending schools that are bereft of the supplies needed to teach them to read. If a child cannot read by the time they’re 8-years-old, they have significantly reduced odds of graduating high school and a drastically increased likelihood of being imprisoned.
When a child is neglected by someone, we refer to this as amoral if not unlawful. Extrapolated to the societal level, what terminology should we use to talk about the collective neglect of millions of our nation’s children? How can we tolerate the normalization of their distress?
Illustrating just how bleak the situation is, America grades out at or near the bottom on just about every measure related to governmental policies concerning children. Youth homicide rates in the U.S. are over seven times that of other major industrialized nations. And now we see social scientists describing so-called “war zones” (sections in violence prone communities and homes) in which degrees of trauma and post-traumatic stress are comparable to those sustained by veterans returning from active duty. Think about that for a minute.
It is imperative that we save our children from these crisis scenarios, just as we would rescue them from any other emergency or natural disaster situation. This issue has become untenable and must be addressed for the health and well-being of America’s children and society as a whole.
If elected, I will support the formation of a Department focusing on youth and childhood in order to tackle these concerns head-on. Lacking the ability to vote against special interests that profit from ventures that dismiss their education, injure their health or benefit from their problems, it is vital that children have us advocating on their behalf. Child advocacy is a justice issue, and a crucial one at that.
We now have access to abundant scientific research that was not available when our nation’s economic structure was being developed. Today we can point to revelations such as the fact that the brain of a child is immeasurably more adaptable, emotionally clever, and adept at learning and holding onto information than an adult’s. Before the age of eight, the neuroplasticity in a child’s brain is at its peak. Consequently, I support an expansive reorganization of investment towards children and their interests. I believe that every school and library in our communities should be areas where learning, the arts, the natural world and all expressions of sustainable living are recognized and cultivated.
Underlying the pervasiveness of these issues, the U.S. is the only country in the world funding its education system via property taxes, which ensures that children from underprivileged neighborhoods will receive a poorer education. Some states try to make up for the imbalance, however the gaps remain shocking.
With our government opting more and more to ally itself with corporate interests above the demands of its citizens, it is not surprising that children’s concerns have receded to the background of the nation’s long list of priorities. Youth advocacy associations cannot match the financial influence wielded by the corporate class.
Now this can hardly be called good economics. Were the goal actually sincere, long-term economic planning, there should not be any American children with access to anything but the highest-quality education, health care and nutrition. Alas, we are of course far from this ideal when it comes to collectively prioritizing our children. The means to tend to our future economy is by nurturing our children now.