Monday, November 17, 2008

Colorado Children's Campaign

Today the Colorado Children's Campaign was in town and talking to political and educational leaders today. For those not familiar with the organization, a visit to Colorado Children's Campaign is informative. They are part of a national organization that looks at ways to improve the lot of children and lobbies on children's issues. Their research suggests that one of the strongest correlations for the abscense of a bright future is to grow up under the poverty line. Poverty is correlated with higher assault and crime rates, lower IQ, lower academic performance, emotion problems, etc. The number of children growing up in poverty is a pressing issue in Colorado because the number of children living in poverty has been rising for the last several years. This bucks the national trend which has remained at a constant percentage of all children. Colorado still has a lower overall percentage than the national average, but that difference is in danger of disappearing in the new few years if the current trends continue. In fact, Colorado has the fastest rate of increase in the number of children living in poverty in the United States.

So with that background, the organization has been visiting rural areas with a two fold purpose: make people aware of the problems of children that are generally associated with poverty and to find out why rural areas buck the trends of poverty as a determinant. In particular, rural areas tend have the same or higher percentages of children living at or under the poverty level, but don't have the negative outcomes associated in other areas with poverty. I.e., the kids may be poor, but they are doing well on standardized tests, graduating high school at high rates, not exhibiting the crime and violence issues found in other areas, etc. Early prenatal care and other measures of poverty buck the trends out here in the northeastern plains as well - some counties here having 100% early prenatal care of poverty level mothers as opposed to the 20-30% in urban areas.

The reason this is interesting to the Colorado Children's Campaign is that they hope to find out what is different in areas where poverty is not the detriment it is in other areas. I.e. to find out what progams can be effective in battling the curse of poverty. This is a very real recognition on the organizations part that they are not going to be able to eliminate poverty any time soon, so what can they and we do so that it hurts the future the least. Other states have tackled the poverty issue in various ways, but the question is what will work here. The program is just beginning to do the research, but I am encouraged by the fact they are looking for the other factors. They have already done an appreciable amount of work in showing the poverty problem is not due to issues like immigration and migration, etc. It is encouraging to see a social issue organization that is non-partisan and pursuses real research into the best measures to ameliorate the problem. I only wish there were more like them.


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