In 2003, MN Federal Reserve Board Director Art Rolnick & Economist Rob Grunewald completed a study demonstrating the highest return on investment government could make – 18%.
They proved that by investing in early childhood programs children became much more likely to succeed in school and lead a productive life. This research was the most practical approach to the economics of childhood development this nation has ever seen.
KARA believes that this federal reserve study has not had the impact it should have had because;
- We don’t respond to how much money is saved as powerfully as we do to how much things cost,
- Almost no one knows the short or long term costs abused children carry with them through a lifetime or,
- The cost of multiple generations of abused children
One of my CASA guardian ad Litem case boys, a seven-year old, cost the county 3 million dollars by the time he aged out of foster care. A calculation that does not include consideration for the teacher he beat up, the person he stabbed, many other crimes and the terrible things he did to most of the 29 foster home he passed through as a state ward child.
More troubling than any single traumatized State Ward child with a lifetime of hurting himself and others would be the larger families of tortured state ward children becoming criminals and preteen mothers without parenting skills, drug habits and violent boyfriends.
Two families in my caseload stand out, one of seven children the other of eight. I estimate that those families have cost our counties tens of millions of dollars without considering their crimes. Those children went on to have families, each new family living a life just like the home they grew up in.
County Auditors & law makers have not been able to understand or draw public attention to the what has to be the most significant expense growth areas of the last 20 years.
Add to that the millions spent on prisons, jails & the growing cost traumatized children have on schools and public health systems plus the high turnover in teaching, social work and policing due to stress and failure.
The real cost of not funding crisis nurseries, health and mental health care and other early childhood programs is recurring crime, broken children & communities, school failure, recidivism and fear.
Blaming children for not having a healthy childhood is pointless and cruel. Blaming ourselves for the lack of concern we have had for other people’s children is more appropriate.
No one should have raise a child with gangsters, crack and gunfire next door. No one should have to raise a child without access to adequate health and mental health care and childhood services that can save a family.
We haven’t saved any money by not doing these things – it would serve us all to engage in a holiday spirit of generosity for at risk children this new year.