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Poverty continues plaguing America’s children

By Nisa Islam Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Jan 17, 2018 - 1:14:11 PM

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WASHINGTON—According to the Children’s Defense Fund, nearly one in five or 13.2 million children in the U.S. are poor, more than 1.2 million public school children are homeless and the majority of all public school fourth and eighth graders cannot read at grade level. 

These disheartening statistics are from The Children’s Defense Fund’s “The State of America’s Children® 2017” report which details the immoral and preventable poverty, homelessness, hunger, health problems, poor education and violence plaguing children who are America’s responsibility and future.

The Children’s Defense Fund contends it is a national disgrace that children are the poorest Americans.

“This is one of the scariest times America’s children have faced in the struggle to level the playing field as the last 50 years of progress in child health coverage, nutrition, and education are under assault,” said Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund.

“We should be building on what we know works and moving forward, not backwards, to improve the odds for children who need our protection. We urge the American public to stand up and stop this war on children now.”

According to the report’s data:

• Child Population: The U.S. has 73.6 million children. Children of color, who are disproportionately poor, will be a majority of our children by 2020.

• Child Poverty:  Nearly 70 percent of poor children are non-White.

• Income and Wealth Inequality: Unjust income and wealth inequality is soaring. Since the end of the Great Recession, income of the top one percent has grown 27 percent compared with eight percent for the bottom 99 percent. White families’ average wealth is seven times greater than Black families’ and five times greater than Hispanic families’.

• Child Hunger and Nutrition: Nearly one in five children—14.8 million—live in food-insecure households.

• Education:  More than 75 percent of Black, Hispanic and American Indian/Alaska Native children cannot read at grade level.

Fathers can play a key role in changing the lives of children according to Fathers, Inc. executive director Kenneth Braswell.

This was seen recently in Dallas.  The Billy Earl Dade Middle School planned a “Breakfast with Dads” event and needed an additional 50 dads for students who would not have a dad represent them.  They posted an ad on social media and much to their surprise 600 men showed up.
That type of engagement is critical, said child advocates. 

“When you think of reading levels we know that significant numbers of Black children are not on reading level.  We started Real Dad Reads.  We started libraries in barber shops, there are 51 in Atlanta.  When fathers engage in the academic lives of their children they do better in school, and they are less likely to commit crime,” said Mr. Braswell.

The report also detailed that:

• Child Welfare: Every 47 seconds a child is abused or neglected, and the number of children in foster care is increasing rapidly as the opioid crisis spins out of control.

• Juvenile Justice: Every day 2,805 children are arrested—one every 31 seconds.

• Gun Violence: Eight children and teens are killed with guns daily. Gun violence is the leading cause of death for Black children and teens.

The report addresses the dire needs facing children in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands even before the hurricanes.  It offers a portrait of immigrant children; and describes how America ranks among rich countries for investing in children. Despite this country’s great wealth, the U.S. lags behind other industrialized nations in investing in their children and consistently ranks among the worst on key child outcomes.

“In many ways, people see fathers as the problem in the lives of children.  We need to change that and see fathers as part of the solution to the problems in the lives of children,” said Mr. Braswell.