Dr. Claire McCarthy is a primary care physician and the Medical Communications Editor at Boston Children’s Hospital. Along with her blogs here on Thriving, you can find her at the Huffington Post and Boston.com. Follow her on Twitter @drClaire.
That’s the message that Boston Children’s renowned pediatrician T.Berry Brazelton wants everyone to hear, loud and clear.
Brazelton was one of 11 individuals from Head Start programs around the country who was honored by the White House on June 18th as a “Champion of Change.” The Champions of Change program is part of President Obama’s Winning the Future Initiative. If anyone has spent his life thinking about our future, it’s Brazelton.
Along with guiding millions of parents in raising their children, Brazelton collaborated with Ed Zigler and Julius Richmond to create Head Start, a comprehensive early education program for low-income children that, as he says, gives “every child a chance to make the American dream come true, for that child and for all of us.”
Kids who go to Head Start are more likely to graduate high school, go to college, stay out of trouble, get a job, and contribute positively to society. It has been and continues to be a resounding success. Yet many children eligible for Head Start can’t go because there’s not enough funding—and even the current funding is threatened.
As Brazelton points out in his blog for the Champions of Change website, “For too many decades we have missed out on the opportunity to invest early in our children, and now we are paying the price with our economy, national security and safety:
- On every indicator of educational achievement, the U.S. lags behind other developed nations, and many developing nations as well. In 2020, there will be 123 million high pay/high skill jobs. Unless we do better, there will only be 50 million Americans qualified to fill them. The rest will be outsourced – to places like China and India.
- According to a report by a group of retired generals, 70% of our young men and women cannot serve our country because they are not smart enough, not healthy enough, or both.
- Police chiefs and sheriffs say that spending on crime is out of control. There are more people in prison in the U.S. than in any other in the world. Too many of our public high schools are drop out factories. Too many children out on our streets at age 15 with no skills are prison-bound. It will cost 3 times more to imprison them than to educated them.”
In early childhood, brains are still developing. It’s a crucial moment. It is a moment when we can make a real difference—or, if we let it pass, a moment in which so much can be lost forever.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, we say. Our children are our future, we say. But saying isn’t enough. If we really mean what we say—and we should, because both are fundamentally true—we need to put our money where our mouth is and fund programs like Head Start.
Kids don’t vote—maybe that’s the problem, that’s what makes it easier for politicians and policymakers to cut programs that serve children. But parents do. And others who work with, care for, or care about children do. Here at Boston Children’s we believe in working tirelessly until every child is well…and we know that being well is more than being healthy. Being well is having a chance at a good future.
Learn more. Get involved. Visit Head Start’s website to read about this wonderful program and see how you can help. Find out about the many ways the American Academy of Pediatrics advocates for children at the federal, state and community level, and see if there is something you can do. Join the Child Advocacy Network, part of the Office for Child Advocacy here at Boston Children’s.
Remember: it’s not just their future—it’s ours.