25 years ago, KARA board member David Strand went from CASA guardian ad litem volunteer to writing his PHD student thesis “NATION OUT OF STEP” comparing America to the rest of the Industrialized World in how we treat children. At the time, we ranked at or near the bottom across most quality of life indices. Today, we have maintained that rank and lost ground in some areas.
David made public policy for children in Europe for ten years before returning to the U.S. to retire and become a child advocate as a County CASA guardian ad litem volunteer.
David’s experience as a CASA child advocate drove him to enroll at Hamline University and pursue a doctorate in children’s issues to discover how the U.S. compared to other nations in how it cares for its children.
His PHD thesis (below) compares those 20 nations we have considered our equals since we began monitoring data after the second world war. Reading it today, states like Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and Alabama rate behind many 3rd world nations and don’t compare at all to other industrialized nations.
There is no question that smart nations took seriously the needs of young families and at risk children in their efforts to make a better world.
They created safety nets & services for young families, quality daycare, education and healthcare. America built prisons, jails, courts, police departments and a punishment culture that has reached incarceration and recidivism rate exponentially higher than any other nation on earth.
Lock’em up, throw away the key and make minor drug offenses lifetime sentences (20 year prison sentences for seven marijuana plants were common in the late seventies) and these policies are a political mantra to this day.
Racial disparity in punishment & sentencing and the growing financial cost to state and federal budgets as 90% of our felons are rearrested within nine years has sucked badly needed dollars from schools and young families.
We are a people of short memory and an aversion to topics that are unpleasant.
Our national response to bad information has been to hide, obfuscate and ignore the growing mountain of data that shines light on our punishment model of public policies.
The resulting social and fiscal costs have broken our institutions (education/public health/public safety) and made life miserable for tens of millions of Americans.
KARA hopes you will use the information on this site it to convince your legislators, friends and neighbors that to have a civil society we need a safety net for young families, early childhood programs, healing models for children instead of jail sentences for juveniles and others caught up in our criminal justice system.
If you want safe streets, functioning schools and to feel better about the community you live in, make a call to your state representative and let them know what you know – and share this with people you know that are looking for a brighter future. We are all in this together.
Kids At Risk Action writes and reports on child abuse issues
providing a passionate voice for at risk children
All Adults Are the Protectors of All Children
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