Economic Security was the topic of the most recent Hamline University Dialogue ((4/20/06).

It was remarkable to hear Art Rolnick (Fed Reserve Board Chairman), Chris Farrell (Chief Economics correspondent American RadioWorks), and Jenny Keil (Associate Professor of Management and Economics at Hamline) relate the economic security of our nation to the education and well being of children.

There is a very real value to fostering a healthy population of citizens that can obtain an education, earn a living and take care of themselves and their families. In fact, it has been argued that it was the effectiveness of America’s educational institutions during the 1950s that made it’s population the most productive in the world.

The panel brought our attention to the very real cost to a community of children born into toxic, violent, drug using, abusive families. Mental and physical health problems explode into long term illnesses that keep at risk children from leading normal lives.

Instead of healthy productive children, untreated at-risk children become unable to cope with peers, their community, or at school and become more and more dysfunctional as they get older. For many years now our courts have been sending more children into the Juvenile Justice System and about twenty five percent of the Juvenile Justice youth into the Criminal Justice system.

Statistically, more than half of those children and youth are being diagnosed with mental health problems, their criminal recidivism rates are high, and their long term potential for remaining in the court system, jails, and prisons has reached an all time high.

It’s expensive to maintain a child through years of Child Protection services, more years of Juvenile Justice, and if they graduate to Criminal Justice, it is often a life sentence of recidivism (66% is the national average in America’s prison system). It cost almost $80,000 to maintain a prisoner at Stillwater Prison last year.

The smart money treats the child effectively at the first opportunity. It saves us money, breaks the cycle of family abuse,(healthy children have healthy families) and a human being.

Mike T
guardian ad-Litem www.invisiblechildren.org

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