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Child Watch® Column: "New Year Resolutions"

Release Date: January 4, 2013

Marian Wright Edelman

As New Year’s Eve countdowns wound down, many people turned to the familiar ritual of taking stock of where they are now to make resolutions for what they can do better in the new year. We all measure our accomplishments and shortcomings in different ways. Some people count numbers on a scale or in a savings account. But what if we decided to take stock as a nation by measuring how we treat our children?

If we did that kind of countdown, we’d learn:

Every second and a half during the school year a public school student receives an out-of-school suspension.

Every 8 seconds during the school year a public high school student drops out.

Every 32 seconds a child is born into poverty in America.

Every 47 seconds a child is abused or neglected.

Every 72 seconds a baby is born without health insurance.

Every 5 and a half hours a child is killed by abuse or neglect.

A majority of all American fourth and eighth grade public school students can’t read or do math at grade level including 76 percent or more of Black and Latino students.

Millions of American children start school not ready to learn and millions more lack safe, affordable, quality child care and early childhood education.

If we were counting we’d see that millions of poor children are hungry, at risk of hunger, living in worst case housing, or are homeless in America.

And we would find a child or teen is killed by a firearm about every three hours and 15 minutes — over seven every single day. The devastation at Sandy Hook put the media spotlight on a tragedy that strikes families in communities across America daily as a result of our nation’s shameful refusal to protect children instead of guns. In 2010 2,694 children and teens died from gun violence.

What do these numbers tell us about who we are and who we hope to be? Why do we choose to let children be the poorest age group in our rich nation and to let millions of children suffer preventable 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 for new resolutions backed by urgent and persistent action. In 2013 the United States celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and of the Birmingham movement. Our first African American president will be inaugurated for a second term, in a public ceremony that will take place the same day as our national holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., our prophet of nonviolence. How will we honor and carry forth our long struggle towards freedom and equality? Let’s resolve not to make this another year of platitudes and remembering the dream but make this a year of action to end child poverty and violence as Dr. King called for.

Dr. King said: “The Declaration of Independence proclaimed to a world, organized politically and spiritually around the concept of the inequality of man, that the dignity of human personality was inherent in man as a living being. The Emancipation Proclamation was the offspring of the Declaration of Independence . . . Our pride and progress could be unqualified if the story might end here. But history reveals that America has been a schizophrenic personality where these two documents are concerned. On the one hand she has proudly professed the basic principles inherent in both documents. On the other hand she has sadly practiced the antithesis of these principles.” He concluded: “There is but one way to commemorate the Emancipation Proclamation. That is to make its declarations of freedom real; to reach back to the origins of our nation when our message of equality electrified an unfree world, and reaffirm democracy by deeds as bold and daring as the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation.”

Let’s match the history of this 2013 moment with bold and daring steps to close the gap between what every child needs to grow to productive adulthood, what we know works, and what we do to ensure their healthy development. It must begin with safety from guns. If the child is safe all of us are safe.

Please sign CDF's letter to the President and members of Congress demanding they #ProtectChildrenNotGuns.

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.

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Here's what others have said:

Submitted by Monique J at: January 18, 2013
These statistics are astounding!! I am conflicted everyday with these numbers and solutions surrounding them. This is a huge problem in the minority communities. Children lack adequate childcare, healthcare, and education. These three things are vital to a child. There is a generational cycle of children growing up where drugs, guns, and other vices are their norm. Our communities are killing each other. I love Marian Wright Edelman because she recognizes that not only does the government need to be instrumental in helping to clean up our communities, but we need to be as well.

Submitted by Anonymous at: January 18, 2013
These statistics speak volumes. There are a lot of factors that go into why this is happening, and mainly with our minority children. Nutrition, lack of adequate health care, child care, lack of adequate education, and more are reasons to this. It makes my mind go crazy trying to come up with solutions to these negative ills that our children face everyday. The government is capable of doing something about child poverty. They have proven themselves when the elderly was the poorest group in America. Children are our future. I do believe mental health plays a huge part in this, but these massacre shootings that have been happening have been from middle-upper class white males. They have access to mental health treatment. I agree with the statement of a lot of minority children have a lifestyle where guns, drugs, and other negative potent vices are the norm. This has to change.

Submitted by Jessica C. at: January 13, 2013
Looking back in history, this year, 2013 marks anniversaries of great things that have taken place. The 150 anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and the Birmingham movement should all be motivation for us to continue to fight for our children. Without proper guidance from us, our children are lost. It is up to us to make sure that they are not left behind.

Submitted by sleeping beauty at: January 6, 2013
we need more mental health resources and appropriate schools for children who have disabilties. I think that parents neeeds to be able to assess services for their children at a very young age.

Submitted by rach at: January 5, 2013

Submitted by Mary at: January 5, 2013
Our children should always be our first concern.

Submitted by Mindy C. at: January 4, 2013
There has been alot of discussion about gun laws in Chicago and city regulations. Chicagoans are supposed to register their guns with the Police Department as well as the state. According to Mayor Daley this is so that cops will know that they may be at an increased risk when responding to a home that has guns. However, less than 10 percent of Chicagoans that have FOID cards are actually registered with the police department. Some of the Chicagoans who have FOID cards are exempt because they are cops, security guards, and military personnel. With so many residents being exempt and several other just refusing to register their guns, how effective is the law? Secondly, even if everyone who had an FOID card applied with the city law, there would still be thousands of illegal guns on the street unbeknown to the police. Criminals usually do not apply for FOID cards and obtain their guns illegally.

Submitted by Joe at: January 4, 2013
Marian Wright Edelman's comments strikes a chord. As a nation, we can be proud of our scientific accomplishments. In addition to science, I would like our nation to use this same commitment towards children’s education, safety and well being. Then, as a nation, we will someday be proud of what we have done for all children in this nation.