Stand -- for All Our Children

Article excerpt

While many Americans will be traveling to celebrate school graduations this weekend, hundreds of thousands of others will gather in Washington for another, more sober commencement. The "Stand for Children" these concerned Americans will be taking could offer a critical opportunity to fundamentally shift our understanding of who America's troubled children are and to begin to fashion an agenda that is more likely to meet their needs.

As the call for the event has made clear, this gathering is not only for poor and nonwhite children but for all children, and for adults who care about children's future. It is quite right to cast the problems of children this broadly. Americans think of vulnerable children chiefly as poor, black, ghetto children who live in single-parent homes - or, even worse, as marauding, Uzi-toting, black teenagers. Yet, serious as their troubles are, these children represent a small fraction of vulnerable children; policies based on these images can be destructive in the long run.

Vulnerable children are not simply poor children. Nearly two-thirds of children in this country who drop out of high school are not poor. While poor children are more likely to live in home environments that are unsafe and fail to meet their basic needs, studies show that the majority of children who live in such homes are not poor. Child abuse and neglect are clearly not bounded by class. Middle-class children are only slightly less likely to be sexually abused than poor children.

Nor are most vulnerable children African-American. Our child poverty rates and our youth-homicide rates, even if African-American children aren't included in the calculation, are nearly twice as high as almost any other industrialized country.

While children in single-parent homes are most likely to suffer various adverse outcomes, even if every child in this country grew up in a two-parent family we would still have high rates of high school failure, delinquency, and pregnancy among teens. …

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