A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak to The First Friday Club of Cleveland on “The Changing Face of Homelessness.” The message was we have done a good job of reducing the number of single adults in Cuyahoga County who are considered chronically homeless through the creation of Permanent Support Housing units across the city. Unfortunately, the number of homeless families in our community has increased. While family homelessness certainly affects the adults in the family it is particularly damaging to children.
In preparing my talk I came across so much information. I was struck by the “2014 Report on The State of America’s Children” from The Children’s Defense Fund. The numbers are staggering.
Every fifth child (16.1 million) is poor and every tenth child (7.1million) is extremely poor. Nearly 1.2 million public school students were identified as homeless during the 2011-2012 school year.
Children are the poorest age group in America and the younger they are the poorer they are. Poverty and homelessness affect children and their ability to learn and contribute to the world as they grow.
The report asked:
Are America’s Children Ready to Compete in the Global Arena?
How America Ranks Among Industrialized Countries in Investing in and Protecting Children
1st in gross domestic product
1st in number of billionaires
Second to worst in child poverty rates (just ahead of Romania)
Largest gap between the rich and the poor
1st in military spending
1st in military weapons exports
1st in number of people incarcerated
Worst in protecting children against gun violence
30th in preschool enrollment rates
24th in reading scores for 15-year-olds
28th in science scores for 15-year-olds
36th in math scores for 15-year-olds
1st in health expenditures
25th in low birthweight rates
26th in immunization rates
31st in infant mortality rates
Second to worst in teenage births (just ahead of Bulgaria)
I could provide pages and pages of statistics that show we don’t take very good care of America’s children. I often wonder if we don’t provide for our youngest citizens what kind of country will we be in the future.
We do know that early childhood development is the first step to prevent and alleviate indefensible and costly child poverty – this means building a quality early childhood continuum of care from birth through age 5. We know if we properly support children in their early years of brain development, not only will children benefit but so will America. Nobel laureate economist James Heckman estimates a lifelong economic rate of return of 7 to 10 percent each year for every dollar invested in quality early child hood programs. That seems like a pretty good return on our investment. We have allowed childhood poverty to remain higher than for American adults, higher than for children in nations that we consider our competitors. How did we get this way?
Today we say good-bye to Emily Keating our Jesuit Volunteer. Emily has been an amazing presence this past year at the WSCC and we wish her well on her next adventure – teaching English to a family in Morocco! In two weeks we welcome our new JV – Chau Nguyen who comes to us from California. More about Chau in the coming weeks.
Don’t forget to purchase your tickets for the Associate Board’s newest event “Sips & Swigs.” See the link below for more details. It promises to be a great new event to benefit the WSCC!
As always, thank you for reading,