Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Support Future Republicans: OK, Future Democrats As Well

The future of our nation in an increasingly competitive global economy will depend on our preparing our young to learn to adapt this dynamic environment. We need our children to be healthy, alert, and willing and able to learn. Our children must learn the skills required to continue improving our quality of life.

Fortunately, many of the same preparations that may be taken may do more than just guide children towards prosperous lives benefiting their communities. These same activities may prevent placing children on paths towards academic frustration, lifetimes at low wages, and even criminal behavior. These simple, yet critically important, steps need to be taken.

There are important and proper roles where public policies may better serve children. Government should never improperly intrude into the privacy of homes. Yet, where children are being abused, government needs to takes rapid and decisive actions. Where government may assist in strengthening families, its aid should be welcomed. Where we may increase the ability of our children to learn, we must act.

We are learning that childhood may be more important than we previously thought. Brain researches are debating the extent to which brain development during the early years of life influences their lives. The human brain adapts to its environment during this formative period. Frontal lobe activity can be stimulated by parental involvement. It is argued a lack of this stimulation can lead to lifelong depressed behavior. A child who does not find empathy by the age of three is likely to face life having difficulty showing empathy towards others. A person without consideration for others has a much greater tendency to drift towards anti-social behavior such as violent crime.

What a baby is exposed to, or not exposed to, may determine how the brain forms and how the brain is apt to operate for the rest of life. A baby growing up in a withdrawn or hostile environment may begin life at a significant disadvantage. Our young need to be raised and educated in homes and preschools that provide positive environments.

Future costs to government, from education to judicial to corrections, may be reduced through investing more in our youth. Where government may properly invest in our young is in providing greater health care, learning opportunities, and information to parents. Specific programs include expanding visiting nurse services, improving child care, providing Kindergarten and preschool options, updating our foster care system to move foster care children into loving adopted homes, and having children’s health programs reach more children.

Visiting nurses provide valuable services, especially when they contact first time parents. Often, just informing parents about health care options and how to obtain improved parenting skills brings high returns at low costs and limited intrusion. Further, the ability of nurses to identify health care problems earlier improves health and avoids many latter problems. The visiting nurse program is a success and should be expanded.

Quality child care is very important. The demand for child care exceeds the supply. Unfortunately, some of the day care that is supplied does not meet quality standards. It is important that day care employees positively stimulate children’s minds. In addition, child care centers need to be safe environments. Too often, children are neglected in overcrowded and understaffed facilities.

Child care employees are paid low, often minimum, wages. Yet they have great responsibilities in the care, safety, and education of our young. Children have emotional and developmental difficulties when their care givers change. Unfortunately, low wages in child care guarantees high staff turnovers.

One policy that assists in lengthening the time child care employees remain in this profession is through providing scholarship assistance. For employees remaining in child care, the further education they receive both makes them brighter workers as well as ultimately preparing some of our lower wage earners to eventually be able to enter careers with progressively higher incomes.

Pennsylvania needs to expand its Kindergarten offerings. Ours is one of the few states that does not mandate Kindergarten. Too many of our students enter our education systems at a significant disadvantage compared to the rest of the nation and the rest of the world.

We need to act to better serve our children caught in the foster care system. There are more parents seeking to adopt children than there are children available to adopt. It is almost always better for a child to be cared for by permanent, caring parents rather than bounced around amongst foster care parents and facilities. Yet complex rules slow down the ability of children to leave foster care and being adopted. We need to speed-up the adoption process.

Children health insurance (CHIP) needs to reach more children. This highly successful program has improved health care and avoided even costlier health care problems for thousands. Yet, CHIP stands to benefit many more children. CHIP needs to expand.

We need our children to be smarter and healthier so they may better learn. For those of us who state we’ll give everything for our children, let us now give our children something. If we do not act, our children will pay the price, and in the long run, we all will pay the price.


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