What are children concerned about at the beginning of the school year? Some worry if they will like their teachers, while others worry if they or their mothers will be subjected to violence during the night, and the next day be unable to concentrate during class. Some worry about finding friends, while others worry that they will be homeless or even if they will have dinner.
Children who are exposed to traumatic situations, including drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, poverty, neglect, domestic violence, etc. often have parents who are barely surviving, and who have little ability to nurture their children.
Roughly 30% of Arizona children have experienced at least two adverse childhood experiences—the highest rate in the nation. (source: Moving the Needle Series, May 5, 2019, The Arizona Republic)
Schools are working diligently to overcome the severe problems children bring to school but Arizona has the smallest ratio of school counselors to students in the country. Some schools have excellent resources, while in others children are falling through the cracks.
The good news is Arizona has excellent prevention programs—such as Healthy Families Arizona, the Nurse-Family Partnership, and Parents as Teachers—that help at-risk parents better support their children from birth. As mentioned in the Arizona Republic article, multiple studies have shown that Arizona’s early childhood programs “produce life-changing results that last for years.” But will our legislature replace the $3 million in funding that the federal government is taking away this fall from Healthy Families?
Opportunities for Action
*Recognize that strengthening families is less expensive for us than dealing with the consequences when they fall apart.
* Learn about the voter-initiative First Things First, that funds a range of programs for parents, and perhaps staff a helpline or promote quality preschools and daycare facilities.
*Ask about volunteer programs at schools where you can help connect kids and parents with community role models (you?)
*Provide food at curriculum nights to boost attendance.
*Offer to volunteer at these agencies and at schools. They may have just the spot for you.
*Remember that children’s brains develop the most before they even begin school, Encourage parents to read, talk and experience activities with their children. Offer to mentor a family.
*Speak with your legislators about funding for vital programs.
FOR MORE INFORMATION OR TO OFFER THOUGHTS AND OPINIONS, CONTACT:
Joan Fenton firstname.lastname@example.org