"That He Might Touch Them"

by Bret Kincaid

Jesus loved children. This was remarkable in an ancient society that put children near the bottom of the social hierarchy. Acting in line with their own culture, the disciples tried to shoo some children away when Jesus was about to give a sermon. But Jesus insisted on blessing them first.

Children appear to be relatively higher up the pecking order here in the US. And yet social policy doesn't reflect a higher status. Of the age demographic groups, children receive the least help from government, certainly compared to the elderly (http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/23xx/doc2300/fsec.pdf), even accounting for education funding and all government assistance to parents. Research indicates that this disparity in government spending between children and the elderly gets worse during times of recession. (http://content.healthaffairs.org/cgi/reprint/23/5/131.pdf)

As if to underline the point, Feeding America, formerly known as America's Second Harvest, released a report (http://feedingamerica.org/newsroom/press-release-archive/child-food-insecurity.aspx) last week delineating state-by-state food insecurity among US children.  The bad news is that child food insecurity has gotten worse since 2005, and the worst news is that the stats are from 2007 and earlier, so food insecurity has likely gotten even worse in the past year.  Some 3.5 million US children under the age of 5 live in food insecurity.

Of course the government isn't only to blame, and it certainly isn't the entire solution either.  But unless we are prepared to admit that our parents and neighborhoods are simply less generous toward our children, how do we explain why our childhood hunger and poverty rates are so much higher than in Europe, (http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/52/43/41929552.pdf) our increasingly diverse, rich counterpart?

I encourage readers to devote an hour this week to read the Children Defense Fund's The State of America's Children, 2008 report (http://www.childrensdefense.org/child-research-data-publications/data/state-of-americas-children-2008-report.pdf). It covers virtually every issue that affects US children—healthcare, education, joblessness…and more.  (Another excellent resource is the National Center for Children in Poverty ( http://www.nccp.org/topics/childpoverty.html) website.) Then let's think about how we can address any of these issues, whether it be volunteering at a food bank, tutoring, employing a teenager, or learning what state and local policies affect children and perhaps writing our representative or governor to advocate just policies on the behalf of our children.

Perhaps this is one way of blessing the little children.

Bret Kincaid is associate professor of political science at Eastern University in St. Davids, PA.


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