These and other findings were outlined Wednesday at a press conference announcing the Campaign for Child Well-Being, a focused effort to improve these troubling statistics.
“We know that communities can’t thrive unless children thrive,” Little said. “Because our vision is a community where everyone can thrive, we’ve put a laser focus on marshaling and aligning resources – dollars, time and energy – to support the well-being of our communities, starting with the children. We want to see child well-being rank as high among the region’s priorities as economic development, transportation and water.”
The research was prompted, in part, by annual reports released by the Annie Casey Foundation. The findings weren’t new but the overall number of children living in challenging circumstances wasn’t getting any better. They wanted to create a baseline around which to mobilize the community to set goals to improve.
The index is the first of its kind in the United Way network.
On a scale of 1 to 100, the Atlanta region’s child well-being index is at 58,meaning “this is a community in which for a host of reasons children are not faring well.”
Why should the rest of us care?
“The region’s future prosperity depends on the highest number of residents in greater Atlanta being full participants in the economy and civic life,”Little said.
From a purely economic standpoint, the Atlanta region’s well-being is tied to our children’s well-being.
Children who live in poverty face all sorts of problems, including increased risk of physical and mental health problemslike asthma and depression. They're more likely to experiment with sexual activity, struggle academically and eventually drop out of school.
Unless we find ways to improve their circumstances, Little said, Atlanta will forever be behind the eight ball.
By releasing the research results Wednesday, Milton hoped to raise a flag on the issues our children face and issue a call to action to address the needs because all of us will benefit or pay a penalty for failing to improve their circumstances.
He believes there are three fundamental approaches the Atlanta region needs to organize around. One is prevention. Second, create opportunities for success. And third, nurture communities.
“We live in a region where one’s zip code is a significant predictor of life chances and life span,” Milton said. “Depending on your zip code, you may not have access to transportation, good jobs, good schools. We’ve got to figure out regionally how to address the deficits that exist.”
People can give to the causes that address the needs of children, Little said. They can give their time mentoring and reading to children and addressing some of the issues that children face. From a public policy standpoint, they can help legislators adopt policy that serve the interest of children.
Bottom line, Little said, “this is about what all of us ought to be doing to make sure every child reaches his or her full potential.”
How well we do that today will determine how well all of us live tomorrow.