Is the (Opportunity) Deck Stacked Against Kids?
I’m incredibly fortunate to have been raised in a financially stable, English-speaking home, where my parents ensured a strong education was my top priority. I got to go to preschool, got my parents’ help with homework, and lived in a neighborhood full of kids my age which enabled me to learn social skills at a young age. If these advantages were taken away, I wouldn’t be where I am now. But many children aren’t blessed with a background like mine.
A couple of weeks ago, I got to attend United Way’s Annual Breakfast, where I learned about the opportunity gap facing young children in our community. Going in, I had very surface-level knowledge about the hardships kids in lower-income families deal with. I understood that hunger is a major issue, and that many children facing adversity never end up graduating from higher education. But I never understood that so many children fall behind before their first day of kindergarten.
Simply put, many children of color, limited English proficiency, and coming from low-income families don’t have a fair start. The odds are stacked against them. And it’s heartbreaking. As they grow older, the opportunity gap between these children and kids born into more privileged situations grows wider and wider, resulting in implications to leading happy, successful lives.
But we as a community can stop this gap from widening.
At the breakfast I learned for the first time about The Parent-Child Home Program, which is helping 1,000 2- and 3-year-olds make sure they get a fair start. The program uses trained visitors from the family’s cultural background to come in twice weekly over a two-year period. The visitors model positive interaction by reading books and playing with educational toys that are brought as gifts. Parents and kids alike gain new skills and confidence and become excited for that first day of kindergarten.
I never realized a program like this existed, and one thing that I loved was the fact that it’s based on research and has seen proven success. The Parent-Child Home Program is one of many impactful programs that United Way supports and it’s a program I plan to support.