Today board member Bob Olson and I interviewed a very bright and internationally well travelled student from a progressive local college. She is hoping to make a difference in the lives of America’s at risk youth.

We agreed that there needs to be a Mothers Against Drunk Drivers type grassroots movement to turn around the cradle to prison pipeline that continues to fill our communities with troubled youth and the problems that stem from growing up without the basic building blocks of life.

Our plan is to work together to gather information about how the other industrialized nations treat very young children and families and make comparisons that will help us better understand what sensible programs could make more kids finish school and go on to lead more productive lives.

Most of America’s public policies have been based on saving money in the short term.  Many of those policies have cost exponentially more money than if we had taken the long term view and made better choices.

As an example, U.S. high school graduation rates are dismal and the 25% illiteracy rate upon graduation rate is unheard of in other industrialized nations.  Blaming teachers for this result of bad public policy is like blaming doctors and nurses for the hospital population.

It is public policy (not teachers) that allows children to pass out of the third grade without reading skills.

Children that begin school without the tools to learn will not graduate, or if they do manage to make it through the process, it will be with minimal skills.

I still point at the money Minnesota did not save by failing to maintain the 35w bridge when it fell in the river two years ago.

The request for maintainance money  was denied repeatedly and when it collapsed its impact on the lives of the 113 dead and injured people and their families was far in excess of the almost one billion dollars in total costs of the bridge failure and reconstruction.

Likewise, taking care of children when they are young and able to change and grow is a easier and less expensive than working with mentally unstable youth in juvenile justice (over fifty percent of youth in juvenile justice have diagnosible mental health problems, about half of that population have multiple, serious mental health diagnosis).

Minnesota Governor Pawlenty’s plan insures that poor children and their families will be far less able to receive the basic building blocks of life.  

These children will fail more often in school and not thrive as citizens when they enter society.

At Pliny the Elder said 2500 years ago, “what you do to your children, they will do to your society”

Watch your prisons grow.

It is an effort to convince people that healthy children become healthy citizens, but it is worth doing.

Support at risk children! Become a CASA volunteer or start a KARA group in your community.

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