Family Talk: The biggest problem facing families
I recently Googled “Biggest problem facing families today,” and one of the search results indicated “child poverty” was the most significant problem facing families. I Googled more and discovered a report by the American Academy of Pediatrics:
• One in five American children lives in poverty.
• Child poverty is linked to higher rates of health risks and increased infant mortality.
• Without early intervention, poverty can threaten a child's ability to succeed in school, and in life.
• Research shows that living in deep and persistent poverty can have detrimental health consequences that are severe and lifelong.
But child poverty is not just a problem for those in poverty. Child poverty is a problem for all of us. If children are our future workforce (and they are), then we cannot afford to have one-fifth of our workforce struggling with the long-term negative effects of poverty. Today's child living in poverty will be working with you, or for you, in the future, assuming they live. Oh, yeah. Child poverty reduces life expectancy 15 years for boys and 10 years for girls, on average.
The American Academy of Pediatrics report concluded: “Pediatricians in every community need to understand the health risks of poverty and how to connect families to a network of local support programs.”
I agree, but would offer an addendum: “All of us need to understand the risks posed by child poverty and how to reduce it.” But how? One way is to engage. Get your whole family involved.
Begin by volunteering with one of the many programs in our city and state that assist children in poverty. Oklahoma Whiz Kids. Sunbeam Family Services' Early Childhood programs. Oklahoma City's Positive Tomorrows. The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. And many more. Find one where you can plug in and work on solving the biggest problem facing families today.
As Mahatma Gandhi said, “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” Begin by shaking the world of child poverty.
Jim Priest is CEO of Sunbeam Family Services and can be reached at email@example.com.