There is one institution that we can depend on being there for our young people, says Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund: prison. This pessimism is reflected in CDF’s new yearbook, which judges the state of America’s children by looking at family income, child health, child care, education, children and families in crisis, juvenile justice and youth development. The back cover of the book offers a glance at America’s children in numbers, stating that every day two children under five are murdered, 399 children are arrested for drug abuse, 17,297 public school students are suspended, etc.
But the report is not all gloom and doom. By comparing the year 2000 to the year 1900, the report makes some cheerful statements: Great advancements have been made in education, including laws that keep kids in school and out of full-time work; child welfare programs have been broadened and strengthened along with the growing sense that child abuse and neglect are not private affairs; and the development of the juvenile justice system has meant a more humane treatment of young offenders. It is the state of America’s children relative to other countries, and to the way it should be, given the glowing economy, that looks bleak.
One focus of the report is “America’s Fifth Child,” based on the statistic that one in five American children live in poverty. According to the report, America’s fifth child is more likely to live in a working family than to be on welfare, to be white than black or Latino, and to live in a rural or suburban area than in an inner city. He or she is at least twice as likely to be abused and neglected than non-poor children, to be born without adequate prenatal care, and to die before age one. 158 pages. $15.95 plus $3 S/H. Gigi Hinton, Children’s Defense Fund, 25 E St., NW, Washington, DC 20001. www.childrensdefense.org.