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Saturday, May 15, 2021

Promising youth a better chance at life

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Sometimes children just don’t have a chance.

It’s true, sometimes children who have been raised under adverse conditions by negligent parents, simply don’t have a chance to succeed in life. Generally it’s not because the child doesn’t want to succeed, it’s because they don’t know how to succeed . They have never been given the necessary tools to equip them for a successful life.

These children who sometimes don’t have a chance fall under the government’s definition of “at risk.” Sadly, some at risk children are often a statistic before they even leave their mother’s womb. Consider this: if a pregnant woman does not receive prenatal care, her baby will most likely be born at a low birth weight, which puts them at an even greater risk of having more problems than normal birth weight babies. An alarming comparison by Marian Wright Edelman of the Children’s Defense Fund says “Black babies in the U.S. are more likely to be born with low birth weight than babies in 100 other nations including Botswana.” Can you believe that?

When children lack the necessary health care, many problems often go unnoticed, thus resulting in further developmental delays. These untreated issues can alter a child’s learning process once they enter school. Eventually the child becomes frustrated in their inability to learn and they often turn to disruptive behavior, which often times marks the beginning of a downward spiral for the child.

Data show that children who do not thrive in school and also lack parental guidance are more likely to turn to criminal activities and gang life. Such acts often lead to children being placed in the penal system.

To combat this problem, members of Congress are showing bipartisan support for the Youth PROMISE Act, which calls for an alternative to incarceration, by working towards prevention and early intervention methods. The bill promotes “investment in quality evidence-based early childhood, voluntary home visitation and comprehensive after-school and summer school programs; mentoring, health and mental health care, job training and alternative intervention.”

Such programs allow children to reach successful heights by decreasing arrests and delinquencies and reducing recidivism.

Under the Youth PROMISE Act, local PROMISE councils consisting of parents and officials from schools, the courts, law enforcement, health care, and community and faith-based organizations will be formed to help devise a plan for youth and their families that will make our communities safer. In addition, the Youth PROMISE Act will provide funds to local law enforcement agencies to hire and train officers to help them better understand their role in prevention and early intervention.

One of the things that I often hear from incarcerated adults is that prison doesn’t rehabilitate. It’s great to know that members of Congress are working on effective solutions that will not only reduce crime, but also provide youth with the necessary tools to lead an upstanding life. This legislation is a wonderful way to ensure that all children have a fair chance – even those who don’t have a strong parental support.

I look forward to seeing the Youth PROMISE Act and the PROMISE councils come to fruition…it certainly looks to be a win-win situation. My hat goes off to Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) who introduced the Youth PROMISE Act.

The school year has officially begun and now is a great time to institute high academic expectations for kids. I encourage parents or even adults who don’t have children to take a productive role in the life of a child. Work with them to ensure their needs are being met by being involved in their educational and social enhancement.

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