Child Watch® Column: "Every Child Deserves a Fair Chance"

Release Date: January 9, 2015

Marian Wright Edelman

“A population that does not take care of the elderly and of children and the young has no future, because it abuses both its memory and its promise.” 
-- Pope Francis            

For many, the start of a new year is a chance to turn over a new leaf and take a hard look at the gap between who we say we want and need to be and who we are. As a nation it’s time to close our hypocrisy gap in the treatment of our children and value and protect our children—all of them. We need to examine with urgency how we treat our children and the gap between what we say and what we do.

If we did, we’d find:    

  • A public school student is suspended every 2 seconds.*
  • A public high school student drops out every 9 seconds.*
  • A child is arrested every 24 seconds.
  • A public school student is corporally punished every 30 seconds.*
  • A baby is born into poverty every 35 seconds.
  • A child is abused or neglected every 47 seconds.
  • A baby is born without health insurance every minute.
  • A baby is born into extreme poverty every 68 seconds.
  • A baby is born to a teen mother every 2 minutes.
  • A baby is born at low birthweight every 2 minutes.
  • A child is arrested for a drug offense every 4 minutes.
  • A child is arrested for a violent offense every 8 and a half minutes.
  • A baby dies before his or her first birthday every 22 minutes.
  • A child or teen dies from an accident every hour.
  • A child or teen is killed by guns every three hours and 18 minutes.
  • A child or teen commits suicide every four hours and 11 minutes.
  • A child is killed by abuse or neglect every five and a half hours.
  • A baby’s mother dies from pregnancy or childbirth complications every 11 hours and eight minutes.

*During the school year.

What do these numbers tell us about who we are as a nation and whether we value the life and potential of every child? Why do we choose to let children be the poorest age group in our rich nation and stand by as millions of children suffer preventable poverty, hunger, homelessness, sickness, neglect, abuse, miseducation, and violence? Why do we continue to mock God’s call for justice for children and the poor and our professed ideals of freedom and justice for all? 

It’s time to realize the promise of a fair playing field for all children. We can and must do better.

Marian Wright Edelman is President of the Children's Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to

Mrs. Edelman's Child Watch Column also appears each week on The Huffington Post.

Sign-up to receive CDF President Marian Wright Edelman's weekly Child Watch Column.

Let us know what you think about this column:

Enter this word: Change

Here's what others have said:

Submitted by Retired Teacher at: January 15, 2015
These numbers tell us how poorly public schools and 50 years of government welfare programs have performed. When will we learn to put the power of choice and responsibility in the hands of parents?

Submitted by Anonymous at: January 10, 2015
After 40 years in the field of early childhood education I believe that Marian Edelmans work including the publishing of tragic statistics should guide the field. Without strong, loving and devoted parents, the schools will likely not get stronger and children will not thrive the way they are biologically motivated to. Let's include parenting and financing education in every high school before young people grow families. Look at the Gstes Global initiative and do it in the US !

Submitted by Fieldmouse at: January 10, 2015
What can I do to help in my community?

Submitted by Robert at: January 10, 2015
I feel sad about kind colunm, especial as a children advocate living in post conflict and Ebola affected country Liberia. Poor children in Liberia encounter same difficulty. A little kid name shelk kamara was killed in Liberia by government forces in search of food in the west point area. Children in some of parts of Liberia search on food on the dump site while others are forced to get marry at a very teen age to serve as bread winner for the family. More than five thousand lost their parents from the deadly Ebola virus. Will this these ever have the opportunity to schooling, shelter and good meal? Amb. Robert k. Gboluma, jr, Kids for Peace-Liberia Country Leader

Submitted by Anonymous at: January 9, 2015
This email is appalling, yet I know from where she speaks. I have five, grown now, children and we had a few problems, maybe more than most, why? Because one is very smart and basically quieter, another has ADHD, another was also very smart...) and the others were part of a strong family and not quite as hip being as they were from a rural cattle ranch for the first years of their lives. Bulling, fights, drugs, sex ( later on). These obstacles were more than we could keep a handle on and the rising problems in life. We sure could have used some village time then. Though all have evolved into wonderful adults, problems are still hovering over their heads. This is what happens to a strong family, you know that so many families are not as blessed. Our communities, very much including our schools, are falling down on the job. People may hate this quote, but its so true. "Its takes a village to raise a child." Were that a real, died in the wool position and put into effect in this country, then those horrible statistics that Mrs Elderman is espousing would no longer be so high, or at all. Now you may have just winched, but you have to see that its not just the families burdon to get a young person to the safety, education, and love, so to take their lives to the extreme, just like many of us are hopefully saying, as I write, YES, YES. We all need to put on our amour and fight the good fight, for the most important assests for our futures as well. Teachers should be paid like NFL players, so many churches are closing, youth centers like the Boys and Girls Club and the YMWC are in dire need to stay open. These are places where young people have a history of succeeding and going on to important and happy lives. Families are struggling and we need to go back a bit in time and promise our beautiful children, that have we have not given up and will never give up on our children anymore.

Submitted by INA at: January 9, 2015
Powerful. I hear you.

Submitted by sam at: January 9, 2015
I worked in child welfare work for 25 years, working with abusive and neglectful parents was stressful but trying to work with judges, attorneys,politicians and appointed officials was the main reason for burn out. Officials collected their paychecks for protecting children but really didn't care as long as they didn't have to actually do something.

Submitted by Black Rooster at: January 9, 2015
The fear of being dead keeps us from assuring the life of others. The indulgence in self worth abundant personal weakness, eliminates any sense of collective worth and power. "If My People who are called by my name"..the stress of the scripture is on the word; "people" and the additional descriptor; "a called people by a particular name"