America’s Report Card 2012: Children in the U.S. OverviewChild Abuse & Neglect Early Childhood Education Health Poverty & Family Economics
On Wednesday, October 10, 2012, First Focus and Save the Children released America’s Report Card 2012: Children in the U.S., a report that grades America on how well it meets the needs of our children. Unfortunately, the report found that when it comes to children, America earns a grade of C-, which by our academic standards is barely passing. This reflects the view of a majority of American voters who believe that for the first time the lives of children will be worse off than their parents. They fear that the futures of American children today may not be as bright as previous generations’ futures. This fear helped inspire former Senator Dodd and Senator Bob Casey to call on First Focus and Save the Children to create a periodic report card that provides a holistic picture of children’s unmet needs in America and policy suggestions on how to meet these needs. To create this comprehensive picture, America’s Report Card assesses five key issue areas that affect a child’s overall well-being:
• Economic Security– based on children living in poverty or low-income homes, food insecurity, and stable housing
• Early Childhood– based on early learning programs and access to child care
• K-12 Education– based on math/reading/science levels, school resources, at-risk and disconnected youth, and educational attainment
• Permanency & Stability– based on the juvenile justice system, child welfare, and children of immigrants
• Health & Safety– based on children’s access to health insurance coverage, health care, and preventative services, public health and safety, and environmental health
Collectively, these five areas encompass almost all aspects of a child’s life and fully illustrate a child’s overall well-being. America’s Report Card mirrors other resources that track indicators of children’s well-being, such as the Annie Casey Foundation’s Kids Count Data Book, the Foundation for Child Development’s Child Well-Being Index, and the Children’s Defense Fund’s The State of America’s Children Series. So how did America fare in the assessment of its efforts to protect child well-being?
• Economic Security: D
• Early Childhood: C-
• K-12 Education: C-
• Permanency & Stability: D
• Health & Safety: C+
• Overall Grade: C-
These grades highlight the challenges that are facing American children today. The lives of children are changing. Many children are born to unmarried parents, 22 percent of the nation’s children are living in poverty, and roughly 25 percent of youth are the children of immigrants. If America and our policies do not accommodate these changes, the effects could be devastating for children. To improve these grades, Americans need to heed this call for action and approach these changes head on. We need to give a voice to American children. Children cannot vote, therefore we need to case our ballots in November with them in mind. Children cannot join political organizations or create political action committees, so we need to support groups that speak on their behalf. We need to advocate for kids by making decisions that benefit them. First Focus Campaign for Children has put forth policy recommendations for members of Congress to use when making decisions to secure the futures of our children. By calling on Congress to keep children a priority in federal legislation and the federal budget, we can make a difference for millions of kids.