Last week there was a national discussion about children. It started several weeks ago when it was reported that the ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) began the policy of separating parents seeking asylum on the Southwest border of the United States from their children. The public outcry was so furious that the President reversed this policy of separating children from their parents. But there remain 2400 children who are being held in camps and military facilities while their parents wait in legal limbo. The trauma of this experience has been discussed in the news and on social media at some length in the past few weeks and the First Lady has visited one of the places where children are being help in an effort to communicate her care and concern.
But as disturbing as this news has been for most of us, I have read several recent articles that show patterns of neglect of children across many parts of America, not just on the borders. There is evidence that infant mortality is higher than most of us realized. Life expectancy is shorter in some neighborhoods and it hits children in poverty very hard. Health care for children who are poor is a game changer for them. In places like Flint, Michigan where lead has been found in the drinking water and remains a lingering public health concern, it is children who are hardest hit and who absorb the life-long consequences.
Though we all realize how devastating it can be for immigrant children to be separated from their parents, our criminal justice system has that same effect on many families when parents who are poor cannot afford bail and parents are forced to spend months in prison awaiting trials. Last week the United Nations produced a report citing the US for children’s health issues. It said one fifth of US children live in poverty. A child born in South Carolina has a shorter life expectancy than a child born in China.World Bank President Jim Kong Kim has said that if we invested in Early Childhood Programs in this country it would transform the inequality in the country to Canadian levels. It can be done, as Tony Blair proved when he took office as Prime Minister of Great Britain and cut childhood poverty in half.
Perhaps we need to start a broader conversation about how we treat the children born here, and we might be able to affect the kind of changes we all believe in. To read more about this issue here is today’s column by Nicholas Kristoff from the New York Times.
Your in faith,