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The Kids Are Not Alright – Oct 15, 2021


Save Our Children, Literally 

Kids are contracting COVID and, in rare and terrible cases, they are dying. So far, nearly a quarter of a million children in Pennsylvania have tested positive and are dealing with the long-term effects just like adults. Fortunately, the number of kids who died by COVID is low – only 17 – but that’s 17 heartbreaking deaths that could have been prevented if adults had just stopped with the tantrums and accepted proven ways to prevent contagion.

Each death is a talking point for believers in science to debunk the myth that the virus is a hoax. Almost nothing beats the horror of watching a young mother in Virginia beg parents in her own school district to take COVID precautions seriously after her own 10-year-old daughter died just five days after contracting the virus.  She’s a hero for going to her school board meeting to save other children who are sitting prey for the conspiracy peddlers robbing them of their future.

Adding to the child death toll of COVID, we learned the number of children who died from child abuse and neglect skyrocketed by 43% in 2020. The top cause of death: ingesting drugs. The PA Department of Human Services noted “increases in prolonged and repeated lack of supervision during the pandemic.” In spite of the pleas from organizations like ours, the need to increase the protection of children during the pandemic never was taken seriously enough during early crisis planning and neither was the risk to their lives. 

Sadly, there’s more. So far this year in Philadelphia, more than two dozen children and teens have been shot to death, already passing last year’s total numbers. And with rampant gun violence in our communities, children are exposed to the aftermath of the violence as well. Just this morning, a man was shot in front of a child care center in Allentown. Even though the kids weren’t hit by bullets, they’re going to be shattered by fear. 

Philadelphia is releasing about ten percent of the funds set aside for violence prevention to five community organizations. That’s the first release of the funds we successfully fought for last June when the city budget was enacted. To be sure, Philadelphia’s anti-violence funds is a step in the right direction, but it’s an insufficient response to an ungodly spike in child deaths.  

We are better than this. One bright spot is the extraordinary investment in children and families being debated in the House as part of the Build Back Better legislation. The measure increases access to child care so children aren’t left home alone. It puts federal funds into pre-K for the first time so that children start school with a foundation to build a future filled with possibility, not defeatism. And, it has the potential to cut child poverty in half. 

If the adults in Congress are too weak-kneed to get the guns off our streets, the least they can do is to put resources in the community to give children a reason to believe their lives are worth living. We owe it to them because right now, they’re dying…and we’re barely offering them a band-aid.

Nominate a young leader for a new Children First leadership program, Justice in Education. This unique program will engage a new cohort of rising stars to solve a real-world problem – state education funding.

Then-PA House Speaker Mike Turzai paid a law firm $50,000 with public funds to write a law review article about school choice, and another firm $65,000 to write a law review article on redistricting. Read more.

Diverse child care providers must be at the table for conversations about program quality and other issues. Children First is convening a Racial Equity Early Childhood Provider Council in southeastern PA. Add your voice – click here to learn how. 
“In the midst of all the problems we face – COVID, gun violence destroying our young people and an economic system that continues to shut Black and Brown people out of opportunity – we continue to waste time on…forensic “audits” to discover nonexistent voter fraud or silly claims that mask-wearing somehow violates individual freedom.”

– state Senator Anthony H. Williams