For years our country has fallen short of its promise to its children, and as we enter a new decade, the situation for many children is only growing more dire.
One in six children in America lives in poverty, with income inequality having grown to the widest gap our nation has seen in 50 years. Millions of children are homeless and millions more are just one missed paycheck away from losing their homes. Far too many children lack access to quality early childhood care during the most critical years of brain development. For the first time in a decade, the number of children without health coverage is on the rise. And across the country, from urban centers to rural towns, our nation’s gun violence epidemic is killing more children, more often.
Even more damning is that as we reach a critical turning point in 2020, when children of color will become the majority of children in America, we are failing these children worst of all.
Of the nearly 12 million children living in poverty, 73 percent are children of color. One in six children in America lives with food insecurity, with Black and Hispanic children twice as likely to not have enough nutritious food to eat. Our schools have slipped backwards into deep and damaging patterns of racial and socioeconomic segregation, perpetuating achievement gaps. Children of color are targeted by a discriminatory school discipline and youth justice system that fuels a cradle-to-prison pipeline. At our borders and around the country, we tear immigrant and refugee children from their parents and put them in cages.
This is why 2020 is such a crucial year for this country and our children. We have an opportunity to decide who we are. Are we a nation that delivers on its promises to its children? Are we a country that abandons and neglects our most innocent and vulnerable citizens? Are we a society that not only condones but promotes a cycle of poverty that prevents millions of children from ever having the chance to live up to their potential?
We know that to succeed, children need stable homes, quality health care, ample nutritious food, good schools, safe neighborhoods, and access to resources and opportunities that enable them to reach their potential. This report makes it clear that for too many of our children, especially children of color, these basic building blocks are out of reach.
And yet, in the wealthiest nation on Earth, the proportion of federal dollars invested in children has fallen to its lowest level in a decade. The shameful state of our children is not an inevitability—it is a choice. We don’t lack the resources to make sure every child has a chance to succeed. We just choose to invest them elsewhere.
Within this report you will find stories of real children and families, as well as statistics, data and trends that show in the clearest terms how we are failing our children. We have provided the latest available information on the state of America’s children across a range of issues that impact their lives, from poverty, housing and hunger to health and welfare to gun violence. Because immigrant and refugee children have faced particularly cruel attacks that impact them in a variety of ways, we have included spotlight features throughout each chapter of this report to demonstrate how our current policies are harming these children.
While there are promising proposals and signsof meaningful progress in many areas, our steps forward are too small and too slow compared with the obstacles and barriers our children face because of our collective inaction. As a result of our continued failings, the state of our children is unjust, unacceptable and short-sighted. We neglect our children at our own peril.
We urge advocates, policymakers, parents and families, community and faith leaders, educators and all those who stand up for our children to use the information in this report to push for America to make a different choice. Let us choose, finally, to recognize that every single child is precious and full of potential. Let 2020 be the year we give every single child the chance to succeed.