Today, 60 percent of fourth and eighth grade public school students in all racial and income groups, more than 75 percent of Hispanic and more than 80 percent of Black children cannot read or do math at grade level. Only three percent of eligible infants and toddlers receive Early Head Start and our nation has been unwilling to ensure high quality universal pre-kindergarten and kindergarten systems to get all children ready for school or excellent and equitable public schools to ensure that children are college ready and prepared for productive work. A child unable to read or compute at grade level and graduate from high school college or workforce ready is being sentenced to social and economic death in our globalizing and competitive economy.
If there is one thing we should know about American children that have been removed from their birth homes, it is that they have suffered extended exposure to violence and deprivation.
This is the definition of the “Imminent Harm Doctrine” which is the legal statute that allows children to be removed from their family.
Extended exposure to violence and deprivation is also the World Health Organizations definition of torture. Children are not removed from their birth parents unless the home environment has endangered the life of the child. That is the law.
Of the 50 children I have advocated for over twelve years, all had experienced severe and chronic violence and neglect. Sexual abuse of children is not uncommon. Their stories would make you cry www.invisiblechildren.org
To express wonder at why abused children develop emotional problems as they age is misleading and unfair to these children.
Last week the State of California achieved perfect synchronicity in its public policy making when it announced that criminals would be released early because the state could no longer afford to keep them incarcerated.
This news reminded me that when I began my work as a guardian ad Litem there were states predicting the need for prison expansion based on the number of failed third grade reading scores within its schools.
Instead of investing in reading for third graders (and early childhood education), California began investing in a third strike punishment model and building tens of thousands of prison beds.
And most of all, how we can become comfortable being “the voice” for At Risk Children in our communities.
I have delusions about how to be helpful to CDF for Item B.
Half of an experience like this is meeting so many smart and committed people from every corner of the country. We can learn so much by just sitting next to someone from Missouri, Chicago, or even St. Paul.
The nice lady from Missouri understood why her state was getting such terrific results from their Juvenile Justice system. She could have taught us some very important things (but she was not on the agenda).