The most disturbing realization from my interview with David Strand is the difference between America’s loud and persistent rhetoric about how “valuable” our children are and how our public policies actually treat youth.

We have the highest rate of child poverty among the industrialized nations, prosecute 25% of our youth in adult courts (we just recently quit executing juveniles), and have no meaningful public policy for child safety outside of the “Imminent Harm Doctrine” (which allows a judge to remove a child when his/her life is endangered by their caregivers).  Minnesota made it law that prior reports of child abuse are not to be used in evaluating new reports of child abuse (and four MN counties screen out 90% of child abuse reports).

If you want to know how other industrialized nations value children, ask David Strand.  David is a sophisticated businessman that helped form public policy for children over the ten years he lived and worked in Europe.  When he returned to the U.S. he wrote an in depth evaluation of the vast difference in public policy towards children between the U.S. and the other 23 advanced nations that we had historically compared ourselves to.  His book, NATION OUT OF STEP  clearly articulates the falling quality of life measurements from failed or non existent public policies that determine how AMERICA treats its children.

If America wants its schools to compete, prisons and crime to shrink, and build a healthier and more capable citizenry, David makes clear that none of this can happen without functioning public policies that address the safety and well-being of children.

Strand spent time as a volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem and became familiar with the depth and scope of the problems facing at risk children in his home state (MN).  His observations about just how out of whack our public policies are towards children and young families go a long way towards explaining why we have ten times the crime and ten times the prison populations of most other advanced nations.  David knows Art Rolnick and Art’s work at the Federal Reserve bank in 2003 defining the high rate of return on investments in programs that promote healthy children.

Perhaps the most painful recognition I came away from this ninety minute interview that it is common for other industrialized nations to use America as an example of what not to do.  They don’t want bigger prison systems, more crime and failing schools and they will vote for whatever it takes to not replicate our failures.

We the American public, on the other hand, have refused to recognize that what the other industrialized nations have employed is in fact working to create happier, safer, and healthier communities (as measured by all the quality of life indices that make up a functioning society).  Support for early childhood programs, crisis nurseries, family leave (for fathers too), and subsidized day care go a long way towards building families and healthy children.

While prenatal care, family leave, subsidized day care, and a genuine understanding of children’s mental health and “ready to learn” issues are costly, they return on these investments is exponentially higher in the form of productive citizens and a better quality of life for all members of those societies.  Our video of this interview will follow once it is edited.

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