One of the heroes that has had a deep impact on my thinking and values is Dr. Marian Wright Edelman. Her latest articles is entitled “Leaving the Little Ones Behind.”
Two important quotes from the article:
- When people talk about the “achievement gap” at-risk children face, they often think of it in terms that apply to school-age children — but that gap can start much earlier than most people might guess. A recent report by the nonprofit, nonpartisan research group Child Trends showed that disparities actually begin appearing before children’s first birthdays.
- Child Trends notes these findings have the potential to have widespread implications. Poverty was the most prevalent risk factor in the study, and they point out that nearly half of all American infants and toddlers live in families with incomes below 200 percent of the poverty level at nine and 24 months of age. Of these children, they note that 89 percent of infants and 88 percent of toddlers have other risk factors in addition to being poor — and the more risk factors a child has, the wider the disparities across outcomes.
Four suggestions the articles gives to combat this:
- The first is that we should acknowledge that if differences in development can already be detected as early as nine and 24 months, interventions also need to start as early as infancy.
- Second, because income was the most prevalent risk factor, we should address poverty’s threat head-on and make children in low-income households the main targets of early interventions designed to improve children’s health and well-being.
- Third, we should engage and support parents of at-risk infants and toddlers through parental education.
- Fourth, we should improve the quality of early care settings.
The conclusion of the article: if a price tag could be put on future workforce productivity in our country, the growing number of children in poverty is very expensive.
That is true at a financial level, but it is infinitely more true from a moral and spiritual level.