A Child is Born….

At this most precious time of year for families everywhere and for Christians in particular, we are grateful and celebratory of the birth of the Christ-child.

Ironically, First Focus (Washington, D.C.) released a new publication today on the status of children in our country as impacted by the recession we are enduring. The report finds:

  • 2.7 million more children lived with an unemployed parent during a typical month in 2011, compared to 2007 (an increase of 71%), bringing the 2011 total to 6.5 million children;
  • 3 million (47% of those living with an unemployed parent) lived, during a typical 2011 month, with a parent unemployed six months or longer;
  • 8 million more additional children relied upon SNAP for food in 2011, compared to 2007, bringing the total number of children receiving SNAP to 21 million (one in four) nationwide;
  • 16 million children (more than one in five) currently live in poverty
  • At least 8 additional states became high child poverty states (where more than one-in-five children live in poverty) during the recession, pushing the total number of high child poverty states to 22

As we are mindful of that Babe born on Christmas Day in minimal physical conditions for thriving, let us be mindful also of the children of America and our duty to care for them.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays,

Laura

Sad irony…..

One in three Oklahoma youth ages 0-18 is overweight or obese! Other states have similar issues, although not this high! (Except Colorado which seems to be quite healthy…at least in comparison.)

Consider what this statistic says about the limited effect of playing and enjoying life for these youth now. (Doing anything physical is more difficult and therefore a deterrent to those activities that could actually reverse this trend!)  Consider the future impact to these youth of health complications as adults  —- YOUNG adults!  Consider the consequence to tax payers whether through increased medical and insurance costs or lack of healthy workforce to move our economy and country forward.

Clearly this is one epidemic that cannot bear our willingness to ‘not notice’.

Why are we in this condition?  Yes, too much TV and computer games. Yes, too many parents drive kids to school when they could (should) safely walk. Yes, good nutrition, fruits, and vegetables are expensive for a citizenry in which 65% participated to some degree last year in the food stamp program. Yes, laziness, poverty, ignorance, denial.

Regardless of how we arrived here, what are we going to do? As a community, in our schools, as families, as individuals?

We know that ‘addicts’ will not be able to begin recovery until the addict him/herself makes that commitment. How much more difficult this work is around obesity when society accepts and too often laughs with/at this addiction of inactivity or poor choices or the vicious cycle of poverty.

I do not know the answer. I do know that I will no longer join self-kidding from others who remark about their overweight as though age or work requirements are allowable excuses. I know I continue to invite my family into playful, physical activities….even if rebuffed repeatedly. I know I will seek suggestions from others who face this same worry on behalf of our common good.

Comments welcomed!

Nothing more precious!

Schools across Oklahoma started this week. Moms are either elated ….or lonely!  Drivers are warned to be alert to returning foot traffic of rambunctious youth. Teachers are their most excited and hopeful as they enter their classrooms with plans and dreams renewed.  Children are focused on seeing their friends and, hopefully, meeting educational expectations.

Surely this is one of the most exciting times of the year!  It doesn’t get the Hallmark traffic of Christmas, Valentine’s Day, or Mother’s Day. However, it does attract the attention of all levels of community.

For those who spend their lives and the multitude of their energy, daylight hours, and personal resources championing the needs of children and youth, Thank You. Many of you are teachers, and we are most aware of appreciating you as school begins. Others of you toil year around in public or private organizations, in clubs or in neighborhoods, in policy formation or in delivery of services for healthy living.  Thank You also.

Indeed, “it takes a village” to raise a child and to help communities thrive. The work is hard. The challenges to come this year will push the envelope as they do each year. So for today, celebrate!  Our pains and frustrations come in proportion to the importance we ascribe to things and people. Our excitement, joy, and renewed commitment should be similarly expressed!  Celebrate. be excited, life begins anew…..with each school year!

As The World Turns…..

Indeed, the budget conversations in DC do seem like a soap opera. AND the world is watching.

If we do not finalize a new debt ceiling by Aug. 2nd, the faith and credit of the US government will be in default for the first time ever. As it is, several major international financial standards have reduced or threatened to reduce the US credit standing now due to our lack of resolution and clear commitment to our budget and debt situation.

These are indeed very tough decisions. Surely there are many details and considerations that must be understood both in the immediate future and in the long-term.

I do not profess to have the answers. However, I do know that if the budget that has passed the House, which would force WIC- the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children – to turn away 200,000 to 350,000 eligible low-income women and young children next year (-2,300 to -4,000 women and children impacted in Oklahoma alone), is allowed to become law, then the values of the Congress are not the values of most Americans.

Similarly, the House budget plan converts SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or food stamps) into a “block grant” program and cuts SNAP funding by $127 billion in the 2012‐2021 period. This would eliminate millions of Americans from the program at a time when they have been forced to seek help – many for the first time – due to the problems in our economy. Again, if this is allowed to happen, the values of this Congress are not the values of most Americans.

A blatant omission of Congress’s duties has been to omit consideration of revenue enhancements (i.e. raising revenue, restricting tax breaks, etc.). These discussions must be, but have not been, a part of any balanced discussion about the US budget and economy.

One does not need to know all the answers to understand that hungry Americans cannot be the productive workforce we need. Desperate people often behave badly and dangerously in their homes and communities when driven to despair. Babies cannot grow their brains and bodies for future health and productivity if adequate nutrition is withheld. Children cannot become the leaders we need for the future when hunger prevents them from learning, imagining, and creating the skills our country will need.

The US budget IS a moral document as much as a fiscal plan and guide. Cutting WIC and SNAP are immoral when no alternative is offered to feed America.

Let’s not be short-sighted

For several years we have been appropriately forewarned about the need to control the US federal debt. The current Administration provided important relief through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Some would say the Administration simply postponed the inevitable. Regardless, it is disingenuous to feign too much surprise that all states, except North Dakota and Alaska, face major budget challenges at this time.

The majority of Americans support that we get our fiscal house in order and cease from strangling future generations with this burden of debt. How we go about doing that is another matter of debate and great consternation to those of us who consider ourselves child and family advocates.

Current proposals to cut funding for WIC (Women, Infants, and Children supplemental food and health services program for low income families), Community Block Grants, Head Start, youth job training programs, community health centers, substance abuse treatment, and IDEA (funds for special education services) also threaten  those very future generations we propose to protect. If we deny our children – yes, they are our children – a sound foundation of health, education, housing, and individual opportunity, how do we expect them to have the skills to lead effectively, make decisions wisely and compassionately, and confront future challenges to society and government with determination when it becomes their turns at the reigns of this great country?

Why is production of more or new military weapons, including those recommended for elimination by Pentagon officials, so sacrosanct?  

Indeed, the America of tomorrow will need many of today’s youth as engineers, scientists, and members of our military ranks. We will also need doctors, teachers, nurses, and entrepreneurs.

The question is will they have those opportunities when we know today that developing young brains, encouraging healthy bodies, and providing stable  living environments are the keys to competent, secure and productive tomorrow?

Unto the least of these……

I, too, worry about the national debt and the legacy our grandchildren will face if we do not reverse our fiscal course. Yet, I cannot be comfortable with the proposed cuts announced yesterday from the House GOP: WIC cut of $378M, Community Services Block Grants $405M, Maternal and Child Health Block Grants $210M, Community Health Centers $1.3B.
I’m sure others have their own cuts that bring intense heartburn.
It is a tough, tough situation. WWJD?