Charlie Bruner on Policies for America's Future
It is trite, but true, to say that society has no greater responsibility than to providing opportunities for the next generation to grow, contribute, and lead. Above all, in Charlie’s view, this requires an appreciation for diversity and difference and a commitment to inclusion and self-actualization for children – in the context of their families, cultures, and communities. The name for this website – child equity – is a reminder to Charlie and others that this commitment to equity and inclusion must undergird all actions taken to establish child policy.

Producing change, particularly in public policies, involves being in the right place, at the right time, AND with the right capacity. Charlie has sought to be strategic and opportunistic in promoting public policies that build upon current policy concerns but that also go beyond simplistic responses to those presenting concerns. While a current child policy issue receiving public attention might be adolescent pregnancy, child gun safety, youth unemployment, obesity, or sexual assault on campus, underlying solutions usually entail broader and deeper responses than simply to the presenting issue itself. This website provides Charlie’s thinking and writing on underlying issues that require policy attention and can be levers for change to ensure that all children are valued and have opportunities for success. Among the levers for change this website explores are:
  • Health equity and young children
  • Child poverty and social justice
  • Village building and school readiness
  • Family strengthening and community voice
  • Electoral education and advoccacy.
Health Equity and Young Children
Child Poverty and Social Justice
Village Building and School Readiness
Reducing child poverty over the next generation requires that children growing up in poverty today experience realistic and open opportunities to succeed. This involves policies offering economic, educational, health, and social supports that enable individual families to provide their children those opportunities. This also requires community policies, practices, and attitudes to ensure that children and their families are not marginalized or discriminated against because of their economic background, the color of their skin, their family faith and culture, or any special needs they may have. In short, this requires both individual service strategies to foster personal responsibility and community-building strategies to promote social justice.
The African proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child,” would not be much quoted if it read, “it takes a multi-disciplinary team of professionals to raise a child.” While health, education, and other professional services are necessary for healthy growth and development, children need supportive neighborhoods and communities to thrive. This, in turn, requires particular attention to community building in developing early childhood systems. Poor neighborhoods are rich in young children and require additional focus in providing both formal and voluntary supports for young children and their families. Poor neighborhoods also are home  to a  disproportionate share of children of color and are places where the impacts of discrimination and marginalization require much greater attention.
Profound disparities exist in the health of America’s children by race, place, and socio-economic status – and these disparities start early. Shifting the trajectory of children’s healthy development requires attention to the first years of life and to rethinking the role of child health practitioners in ways that go beyond securing health coverage and providing clinical care to being a first and effective response to social determinants of health.

The "R" Word
Equity should not become an oblique way to raise issues of race and racism. Addressing issues of structural, institutional, and personal racism remain central to creating a more equitable American society.
See Levers Page
See  The "R" Word Page
See Levers Page
See Levers and Typing Out Loud Pages
Typing Out Loud --
The Color of Our Future: Using Data to Advance a Dialogue on Child Equity
  • Children make up one-quarter of this nation’s population and all of its future.
​​​        -- Inaugural Essay, Kids Count Data Book (1990)

  • Children of families of European origin soon will make up less that 50 percent of the population under 5. These demographic realities suggest both promising opportunities and sobering challenges. The opportunities offered by a multicultural society that is cohesive and inclusive are virtually limitless – including the richness that comes from a broad diversity of skills and talents, and the vitality that is fueled by a range of interests and perspectives. The challenges posed by a multicultural society that is fragmented and exclusive are daunting – including the wasted human capital that is undermined by prejudice and discrimination, and the threat of civil disorder precipitated by bigotry and hatred.
       -- From Neurons to Neighborhoods (2000)

  • If children of color don’t have the opportunity to grow up to be middle class, there won’t be one.
       -- Angela Glover Blackwell address at the 25th Anniversary meeting of Kids Count (2015)
America is one of the most diverse nations in the world, and children are leading the way. Americans recognize the need to provide all children with opportunities for success in a society that values them. This is particularly crucial at this moment in the country’s history.
While nearly four in five U.S. seniors are white and non-Hispanic, half of all the youngest U.S. children are of color. One in five is a dual-language learner. This has consequences to both those who are retired or will be retiring and those who are becoming the next generation of workers and leaders.

At the same time, the income and wealth of the nation is much more concentrated among the older part of the population.  Currently, children represent the age group most likely to be adversely affected by poverty and low-income status and the barriers that presents to healthy growth and development. Young children today are three times more likely to live in poverty than seniors; gains since the War on Poverty in the 1960s have reduced senior poverty by seventy percent, while children’s poverty has remained unchanged. Key to the nation’s future is ensuring that all children, whatever their racial and economic backgrounds, have the health, safety, security and educational opportunities to succeed.

Further, the world can look very different for young children of color in America, based upon their economic status and the neighborhoods in which they live. When the economic well-being of young children is examined by race and ethnicity, it is clear there are profound differences. African American, American Indian, and Hispanic young children are 2 ½ times more likely to live in poverty and less than one-third as likely to live in affluence.

Moreover, African American, American Indian, and Hispanic children are much more likely to be segregated into neighborhoods where overall poverty rates are high and there is an absence of economic, social, and educational opportunity. 23 percent of poor children live in neighborhoods with poverty rates above 40 percent, but 38 percent of all (poor and nonpoor) African American children, 32 percent of all American Indian children, and 29 percent of all Hispanic children live in those neighborhoods, while only 8 percent of all white, non-Hispanic children.

And these poorest neighborhoods are rich in young children, with a much higher proportion of the country’s youngest residents. Yet a comparison of what realized educational, wealth, and social capital exists in these neighborhoods compared with more affluent ones shows how different life can appear to children as they grow and develop. Community-building strategies, some based around young children and their needs, as well as individual policies are essential in these neighborhoods to ensure all children have opportunities for success.

The impacts upon children in their well-being and development from living in or near poverty are well-known. It is not just material deprivation, however, that impacts that well-being. The effects of being segregated, marginalized, and placed in positions where opportunities for success are curtailed have impacts, as well. This produces profound disparities in the well-being of children by race and ethnicity across health, education, and social development. Kids Counts’ Count Race for Results has constructed an “Opportunity Index,” based upon twelve indicators of well-being, to compare the prospects of different racial and ethnic groups of children growing up to be “middle class by middle age.” The index suggests that if seventy percent of white children can be expected to grow up as part of the middle class (or above), only forty percent of African American, American Indian, and Latino children can. This not only impacts their own future, but the future of the country as a whole.

In an increasingly world-wide economy, the diversity among America’s population can be a source of strength, but only we are successful in reducing disparities in the well-being and development of our next generation. While the United States historically has been a leader in the education and productivity of its population, that leadership is under challenge – on many indicators, the United States now lags, and not leads, many nations in the education and health of its children and youth.  Only through a national dialogue and the understanding and commitment that such a dialogue produces will we successfully address the challenges and opportunities our society, through our children, face as we go forward into the future.


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