Saturday, March 10, 2012

Beat the Odds- Investing Today, Creating Lasting Change for Tomorrow

Each investment in a child’s life is an investment in our future. These investments yield residual benefits as our children learn to strive, excel, and thrive. We have before us an opportunity to make a wise investment in the lives of many children by investing in the Children Defense Fund’s efforts related to promoting early childhood education, ending childhood poverty, and dismantling the cradle to the prison pipeline.

By investing in early childhood education, we can have a profound impact on the cognitive development and educational obtainment of children. In Minnesota, only 32 percent of all income eligible children were enrolled in Head Start, leaving 30,561 eligible children without a quality early childhood experience. Studies have shown that participating in quality early childhood development programs has lasting positive impacts on the well-being of children, including reduced rates of teen pregnancy, better health, lower drug use, reduced criminal activity and increases in lifetime earnings. Let’s do the math- simply investing $1 every in early education, yields $8 in future savings for the state.

By investing in ending childhood poverty, we can help to eliminate some of the barriers that children face like homelessness, hunger and health issues. Over the past decade in Minnesota, there has been a 62 percent increase in the number of children living in poverty.  This equates to 192,000 children (or 15% of total children) living in poverty. CDF provides a number of solutions to the challenges of childhood poverty which includes raising the livable wage standards (in order to ensure that parents can earn wages that will adequately meet their family needs) and investing in food programs to ensure that children have the nutritious meals needed to perform at their best while at school.  

By investing in dismantling the cradle to the prison pipeline, we can disrupt the pipeline which leads to mass incarceration and disenfranchisement. In Minnesota, the cost of incarceration exceeds the cost of a quality education by 3.7 times. Additionally, it costs about $311 per day to incarcerate a youth in comparison to community-based alternatives to detention which costs roughly $60 per day. We can make a concerted effort to re-invest these “detention” dollars into early prevention and intervention strategies which take a child from the pathway to incarceration (pipeline to prison) to the pathway to success (pipeline to college).

In closing, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his final book raised the question: Where do we go from here: Chaos or Community. If we seize the opportunity of investing in our children today, we can choose the latter: COMMUNITY. We can transform our community by proclaiming our commitment to our children.

As this quote by Chilean poet, Gabriela Mistral, reminds us that: “We are guilty of many errors and many faults but our worst crime is abandoning the children, neglecting the fountain of life. Many of the things we need can wait. The child cannot. Right now is the time his bones are being formed, his blood is being made and his senses are being developed. To him we cannot answer ‘Tomorrow.’ His name is ‘Today.’

This is a call to action and we can no longer delay! Investing in children today will create a better future for us for years to come.