Defining the American Dream

Amid Economic Deluge, America's Future Struggles to Stay Afloat

Posted on Friday, December 3, 2010

The recession may have officially ended but its lasting impact on American families is fueling an underlying and largely ignored crisis that threatens to flood our social service systems for years to come.
According to the latest annual American Community Survey recently released by U.S. Census Bureau, in the last year median household income in the United States dropped 4 percent from its pre-recession peak, and 1 in 10 families received food stamps last year. These are stark statistics. Yet what they don't illuminate is the very real impact of the economic downturn on our nation's most precious resource -- our children.
Today's reality is that forty-one percent of children live in low-income families and nearly one in every five now live in poverty. Children living in low socioeconomic status households are five times as likely to experience maltreatment as children in other households. Meanwhile, governments are struggling to maintain adequate social services at a time when growing need coincides with declining revenue and resources.
All too often, the result is an overburdened and underfunded foster care system that, just like an increasing number of families in this country, is less able to provide the care and support these children desperately need. Too many of these youths are left to struggle in adulthood on their own at precisely the moment when unemployment is at all-time levels. It's no surprise then that twenty percent are homeless for one or more nights within a year after leaving foster care and that one quarter will be incarcerated within the first two years after leaving the system.
So, as analysts report the drop of plasma TV sales or mourn the loss of another financial institution, let us not ignore the voiceless victims of this economic downturn. Despite the difficult economic climate, each of us has the power to help. There are countless ways to make a difference in a child's life. This could be as simple as being more aware of the children around us, in our own child's school or from down the block. It could mean supporting organizations striving to fill in with the support and services that government agencies are straining to provide. Or it could include serving as a volunteer for any number of organizations that support at-risk youth.
We owe it to future generations to ensure they're not hindered by our own economic missteps. Take action today and do your part to protect our nation's most precious resource. Let's not allow the boundless potential of our children to become yet another statistic in these difficult times. Today's children truly are our future.

Michael Piraino, CEO, National CASA Association

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