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America Is Guilty of Neglecting Kids: Our Own


June 28, 2018
Nicholas Kristoff
New York Times

It’s not just the kids at the border.

America systematically shortchanges tens of millions of children, including homegrown kids. The upshot is that American kids are more likely to be poor, to drop out of high school and even to die young than in other advanced countries.

We tear apart homegrown families, too, through mass incarceration, excessive juvenile detention and overuse of foster care. One black child in 10 spends time in foster care — and 61,000 foster kids have simply gone missing since 2000.

Like immigration, the mistreatment of children is an old problem that President Trump is exacerbating. Here’s a rule of thumb in America for any shortage of resources or conflict over priorities: Kids get screwed.

“A shockingly high number of children in the U.S. live in poverty,” the United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, declared in a scathing report. Almost one-fifth of American children live in poverty, he noted, and they account for more than one-fifth of homeless people….

These are difficult problems but not hopeless ones, and we know what works. Early childhood programs in particular make a huge difference: parent coaching, high-quality prekindergarten, lead poisoning interventions, social worker visits, and mentoring.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim cites a study indicating that if the U.S. invested in effective early childhood programs, the lifelong benefits would be so transformative that American inequality could be reduced to Canadian levels.

We already have a model: When Tony Blair was the British prime minister he undertook a major campaign against child poverty and cut it nearly in half.

Unfortunately, Trump is moving in the opposite direction, cutting benefit programs in ways that will hurt poor kids. Trump’s tax cuts add to the deficit — meaning that we are partying and sticking children with the bill.

A national, bipartisan outcry forced Trump to back down from tearing immigrant children from their parents’ arms at the border; that was a shared outpouring of compassion that represented our country’s best. Now we need a similar outcry on behalf of all of America’s children.