Candidates: Where Is the Agenda for our Children?

I am sure you have watched the unsettling American political climate with great interest. The dissonance, accusations and even the threats to prosecute, portrays the crux of our political scene as more about conflict and chaos than issues, especially concerns so important to our children. 

Who is speaking for our children?

I mean, have you observed how scarcely our children and youth are represented on any candidate’s agenda?

impoverished childAs I looked on candidate’s websites, I saw little or no discussion of poverty, mental health, drug addiction, violence, child trauma, child abuse and neglect, school drop-out, teen or suicide. Conclusively, I saw a lack of general support for kids in our country.

Yes, I do hear about early childhood education and fixing public education—which I approve of because it is certainly needed—but there are just so many overwhelming issues which should to be on the political agenda regarding addressing the needs of our children. It is my hope as we close in on the November election, we will be seeing more of an emphasis on children’s issues as a part of the discussions.

What should we be talking about?

As a nation poised to choose our leadership for the next few years, we should be having significant debates about the inadequacy of our systems in meeting the basic and related needs of our children and families.

We have still not approached issues concerning trauma and its impact.

Many children struggling at many levels. We should be surfacing these issues as important to any discussion about the future of our country… After all they are to be our leaders.

Here are a 10 statistics from the Children’s Defense Fund over the past few years:

  • More than 1 in 5 children in the United States — 15.9 million — lived in households where either children or adults or both were food insecure.
  • Nearly 1.2 million public school students were identified as homeless during the 2011-2012 school year, 73 percent more than before the Great Recession Forty-one states saw increases in homeless public school students between 2010-2011 and 2011-2012
  • A child is abused or neglected every 47 seconds; nearly 80 percent are victims of neglect
  • Infants and toddlers are most likely to be victims of abuse or neglect.
  • Nearly 40 percent of child abuse and neglect victims receive no post-investigation services and many more receive far fewer services than they need.
  • Even though foster care is supposed to be temporary, the average length of stay for children exiting foster care in 2012 was nearly two years (22.7 months).
  • In 2012, 101,719 children in foster care were waiting to be adopted.
  • U.S. children and teens are 17 times more likely to be killed by a gun than their peers in 25 other high-income countries (see Figure).
  • U.S. children and teens are 10 times more likely to die from a gun suicide or a gun accident and 32 times more likely to die from a gun homicide.
  • Over 60,000 children were held in residential placement in 2011. Black children were almost five times more likely to be in residential placement than White children Hispanic and American Indian children were two to three times more likely.

Of course, there is so much more…

But certainly these kinds of statistics merit comprehensive discussion as problems we need to be vigilant about.  If we do not care for our children, we will certainly not be caring for the future of our country.

I am very concerned and desire that children’s needs be placed back on the agenda for political discussions. It certainly is as important as many of the other political points being discussed with such intensity. Our children are too important to omit from our political process and legislation.

Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network

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