I am frequently asked by a variety of folks “what is the number one problem facing children and youth in our community today?” That’s always a difficult question to answer so I have been doing a lot of thinking about that topic lately and I have come to the sad conclusion that the #1 problem seems to be the inability of the adults who have the greatest impact on their lives to make good decisions.
Over the past several months we have seen the following:
- cuts in education spending from elementary schools all the way up to colleges. So while young people are told education is the key, we are not going to make the necessary investment needed to help them open the doors to opportunity.
- proposed cuts in libraries. See above.
- rising numbers of children who died as a result of abuse and neglect at the hands of the parents who are responsible for the safety and well being. It is tough to grow up well if you aren’t even safe and nurtured in your own home.
- increasing obesity rates. Young people are told to be more active but we cut funds for gym classes in schools and recreation and sports programs in our parks while we consider a significant investment in a local professional basketball team.
- the withdrawal of our state’s application for a significant amount of federal funds to support education because the state superintendent of public instruction and leaders of state teachers’ unions cannot get along. Young people are constantly told they must learn to get along with others in order to be successful in the world but a different set of rules must apply to adults.
- a national debt that continues to rise to threatening levels, a debt that will become the responsibility of our current generation of young people–and likely the next as well. Yet we are not providing them with the tools and the education they will need to build wealth to pay our debt back.
Unfortunately, I could go on and on. I used to proudly say that I have 30+ years of experience helping children, youth, and families in our community. But at times I have begun to wonder if somehow I have failed miserably because things have not seemed to improve a lot over that time. If children and youth are really our Number One Priority, then we have to get rid of all the excuses and really be about solutions. It takes all of us, working together; I refuse to believe we can’t do it.