When you review all the groups focusing on the need to help children, it raises the question: What are we waiting for?
• The Triangle Community Foundation recently held its annual What Matters: Our Kids luncheon for a crowd of nearly 600 community philanthropists and leaders.
• The North Carolina Institute for Emerging Issues has identified Kidonomics, the economics of early childhood investment, as the theme for its Emerging Issues Forum in 2018.
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• Triangle United Way is supporting Changing Generations: Pathways to Progress for Families and Children, a two-generational approach of supporting and building – not just funding – collaborative partnerships that help create, scale and sustain solutions fostering self-determination and generational success for children and their families.
• The state’s Business Roundtable recently released a report urging greater attention to reading and early literacy.
Clearly, there is growing consensus among state leaders that we must invest in early childhood. We could not agree more.We know it is essential that this conversation begin as far upstream as possible to prevent childhood trauma, which is proven to predict poor school performance and unhealthy adult outcomes.
The N.C. Budget and Tax Center recently released a brief showing that while the number of child abuse and neglect reports has increased by 29 percent in the past 19 years, the amount of federal funding for child abuse prevention in the past 10 years has not increased.
Even worse, state funding through the N.C. Children’s Trust Fund, created in 1983 with the sole purpose of preventing child abuse and neglect, has dropped substantially. In fact, since the General Assembly transferred $1.7 million out of the trust fund to help balance the state budget 17 years ago, there has been no state appropriation to the fund. The only revenue being generated is $336,000 from marriage license fees and $26,400 from the Kids First license plate and matching funds from local community-based organizations working to prevent abuse and neglect.
As the brief reports, North Carolina is paying $2.3 billion annually for the downstream consequences of child abuse and neglect.
If our children truly matter as much as we say they do, we must invest upstream.
It is time to walk the talk and create plans across the state that foster the safe, nurturing relationships and environments we know can prevent abuse, neglect and the resulting host of negative long-term outcomes. What are we waiting for?
So what can we do?
1. Learn about the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, the impact of child abuse and neglect, and ways to foster resilience in children and families. Prevent Child Abuse N.C. can help by hosting screenings of the documentary, “Resilience,” in communities.
2. Ask local leaders about their plans for preventing child abuse and neglect. Community leaders and parents across the state are beginning to come together to develop local Child Abuse Prevention Plans.
3. Advocate with legislative delegations for funding and support for children and parents.
4. Give. Give generously to agencies that advocate for and serve children and families. In this era of tight budgets, philanthropic giving at all levels is essential.
Wouldn’t we rather tax and philanthropic dollars paid to support and strengthen families and children than go for prisons, remedial education and disease management? Would we rather pay now for good outcomes or pay later to treat the consequences of failing to strengthen childhood experiences?
What’s the plan?
Sharon Hirsch is president and CEO of Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina.