The State Of America

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The State Of America’s Children Essay, Research Paper Alyssa DeNardi March 8, 2001 Midterm Evaluation The State of America’s Children: An Integrative Essay “More and more children are in greater and greater trouble” –James Garbarino This simple statement, made by James Garbarino in his book Raising Children in a Socially Toxic Environment, concisely and appropriately describes the current state of children and youth in America. Garbarino suggests that children today are being brought up in a socially toxic environment where violence, divorce, racism, addiction, educational failure, poor physical health, and adult emotional problems are just a few of the “toxic” social forces converging on children, robbing them of their innocence and dignity. Moreover, he

argues, children who are faced with economic distress and poverty are particularly vulnerable. For them the risks are compounded, as they lack the defenses and supports needed to combat the toxicity surrounding them. According to the Children’s Defense Fund, 13.5 million children living in America today are poor, and 5.8 million of them are living in extreme poverty, with incomes below half the poverty line. The issues related to poverty – from substandard housing and malnutrition, to inadequate health and child care services, to severe emotional stress and violence – are complex and interconnected. Therefore, attempting to understand the problem and propose possible solutions appears to be an overwhelming task. Garbarino effectively provides a lens through which to view

the social forces affecting childhood development. Aletha Huston, on the other hand, in her book Children in Poverty: Child Development and Public Policy, proposes a “child-centered” analysis, which focuses on the child’s healthy development as “a goal in its own right,” rather than as part of a larger social-economic context. A compromise must be reached between these two perspectives, in order to create a complete picture of the issues affecting children living in poverty, without neglecting the importance of the individual. One successful means of compromise was offered by Urie Bronfenbrenner in 1979, when he introduced the “Ecological Model” of child development. His model, which looks like a bulls-eye, has the child and his or her individual characteristics at

its center. The first “ring” around the child is the microsystem, consisting of the child’s immediate surroundings. The next “ring” is the mesosystem, a series of connection between elements of the microsystem. The third “ring” is the exosystem, containing the people and institutions that affect the child indirectly. The final “ring” is the macrosystem, composed of the attitudes and ideologies of society as a whole. In the model all of the layers surrounding the child interact both with each other and with the child. Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model of child development can serve as an effective framework for understanding the impact of health care, homelessness, and violence on children living in poverty, and it can guide for our attempts to improve

conditions for children and youth in America. At the level of the microsystem, quality health care is seen as essential to a child’s physical and mental development. According to Judith A. Chafel, “poor children are much more likely than children who aren’t poor to experience low birth weight, poor nutrition and growth, lack of immunization, poisonings and lead intoxication, risk of injury, and susceptibility to infections and disease.” She claims that the poor health of children living in poverty stems from interrelated causes, including inadequate food, water, and shelter, inadequate provision of medical care, and exposure to environmental hazards in substandard housing. Furthermore, one out of four women go without pre-natal care during the critical first trimester,