I just read one of the best blog articles that I’ve read in quite awhile: The Feb. 10 ECE Policy Works blog about child poverty as it relates to early education. The blog featured a TEDx video about Baby’s Space, a child development program in Minneapolis that uses child development programming as a framework for building resilience in low-income infants and toddlers.
What made this blog post so powerful was that it recognized the interrelationship between three key factors: Poverty, Resilience, and Early Development. Recent census data illuminated just how much of a crisis we are in: There are millions more children living in poverty today than even ten years ago. Of the more than 15 million children in poverty in 2009, almost half lived in extreme poverty ($10,974 for a family of four).
In response, both ECE Policy Works and Baby’s Space emphasize the importance of helping every child build a strong developmental foundation as a buffer against the vicissitudes of life — the challenges of poverty. Terrie Rose, the Founder of Baby’s Space, uses the powerful metaphor of pulling babies from a river to describe many of our current anti-poverty responses. Our juvenile justice systems, alternative education programs for students who have dropped out of school, welfare laws for teen parents — these laws are the functional equivalent of standing down-shore, dragging from the water, children who are already drowning in the river of poverty.
Instead, we need to move up-shore. We need to get to children and young people before they start drowning and give them the tools they need to learn to swim to shore. Better yet, to build boats boats so they can help their peers and community members get to shore. Policies that support access to things like quality early education, doctors, safe and stable housing, opportunities to engage with community… these policies ensure tat young people will never drown in the river of poverty.