Every so often, I give myself a pep talk about possibilities, particularly as they relate to our most vulnerable population – children and youth.
I aged out of the foster care system over twenty years ago. Having made it through a tough childhood, I vowed to do better by my children and other peoples’ kids. I believe that every kid has a right to live a happy and healthy life, in spite of our shortcomings as parents. Turns out, most people share this point of view, though it can be difficult to translate this into good policy, practice and programs. Most policies geared for children and youth really focus on preventing bad situations and outcomes instead of promoting and ensuring good things do happen.
While the debates regarding how to achieve better outcomes for children and youth can be exhausting, I am proud that many leaders in our region are now taking a collective stand for young people. Not too long ago we affirmed as a region what we mean by child well-being as “children meeting developmental milestones along life’s continuum, and being set up for success as they become adults while enjoying being children”. Child well-being assumes that kids will develop the appropriate capacities to be resilient and the external capacities to engage with the world around them including their peers and families.
Child well-being indicators are intertwined and it takes more than just focusing on one aspect of the child. It takes a community that values education. It takes children being ready to learn – that means they aren’t hungry, tired, or stressed. It takes children having a caring adult in their life. It takes access to health and medical services. It takes safety, support and trust. Missouri generally ranks near the bottom of the middle on most child well-being measures, while Illinois sees a slightly higher ranking. Our region has pockets of prosperity and pockets of utter neglect, and this, I believe, has a direct relationship with our state’s child well-being ranking. Why does this matter? It matters for the future of our region. So goes the well-being of our children, so goes our future regional competitiveness. It matters because we should all want our entire bi-state region to be the best place for kids to live.
We owe a special thanks to the many people and institutions in this region who have chosen to invest through the community campaign powered by United Way. If you would like to contribute, donate here.
This post originally appeared in the November 9 issue of Community News.