‘Kids Count’ a good read, but it’s not pretty

By Deborah McCaslin,Custer County Chief PublisherThere is a report each year issued by ‘Voices for Children in Nebraska’ called ‘Kids Count,’ that is worthy of serious study. This is one report that always makes me sit back and frankly, nearly gasp. Of all of our jobs as people, as adults, as parents, the raising of our children is the most critical. And raising children in today’s society doesn’t make it easy. I will always cherish a conversation my mom and Ihad as we wallked the Tucson hills, trying to encourage our (Norm’s and my) first child to be born. As she talked about the importance of being a mom, I hoped I listened. My memory has the conversation in an abbreviated form, but I believe the gist is still there. Children, she said, are a gift from God, on loan to love, nurture, protect and raise, and they don’t come with a set of directions. They are not yours to keep. They do not belong to you. Her emphsis was on the word loan. It is your job to teach them to be polite and to be honest. It is your job to instill a sense of curiosity about the work around them and to keep them humble. At some point in time you have to return them to society as productive adults, ready to face the challenges that life will no doubt dish out. She said she believed it didn’t matter so much the vocations they choose, as long as they worked hard at their endeavors and were kind to others. A positive attitude in my own childhood home wasn’t an option. If a negative attitude presented itself, you were given an non-optional opportunity to spend quality time with yourself doing productive chores of our mother’s choosing. ‘Kids Count’, in looking at statistics centers back to a few basic questions found in those directions shared so long ago ... “Are our children an asset to the communities where they choose to live? And are they assets to society?” The reports center on the importance of the first eight years in a child’s life when some of these basic principals are formed. The report analysis comes to the conclusion that if at any point in that child’s first 8 years. the child’s caregivers, or the systems put into place to protect the child fail, that child is at risk of NOT growing up to be an asset to the community where they choose to live. And if our children are at risk, this is detrimental to society as a whole. The report’s intent is not to center on the grim and the bleak, but to address fact, because without awareness there is no chance for improvement. The report ends with a question I believe we as a society can’t ignore ... “Do we have the will to invest in the youth of today, even when it’s not politically popular? Do we as a society have what it takes to make a difference. For more on Kid’s Count see page A7 of this week's Chief.