Many times we hear someone remark that “the children are our future,” but folks at the Interfaith Children’s Movement are much more likely to be heard saying, “the children are our present.” This awareness of our children and the clear and present dangers that confront them has propelled this organization for the past 14 years.
One in four children in Georgia does not have enough food to eat, with two-thirds of the fourth-graders in our schools lacking in reading and math proficiency while the state spends $90,000 a year to keep a child incarcerated but far less on education.
In addition to this we still ranked fourth in the most uninsured children of any state in 2014 and monthly 250-500 girls are being sold online for sex. Fifty percent of the children born in our state are born to unwed couples and full-time day care in a center costs 31 percent of a single mother’s income and 878,000 of our citizens do not have family care days that can be used to take care of a sick child. One in three children lives in a home where neither parent has full-time employment. Facts such as these led a group of children’s advocates to form the Interfaith Children’s Movement in 2001 because they knew that something had to be done about creating better public policy for children.
This fall, I became a member of the ICM board and I consider it a great honor to serve with this committed and passionate group of Christians, Jews, Muslims, B’Hai, Buddists and others who are willing to make sacrifices of their time and resources to organize and implement political action, educational programs and any other types of advocacy that can help improve the lives of our children.
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It is often very easy to talk about the value of children, but the greatest testimony to the way in which we value our children is made through the things that we are willing to do to make life better for each child in our state.
The children who are most at risk are the ones who live at the lower end and the bottom of the economic scale. In addition to their limited resources, the children who live in poverty and without many of their basic needs being met are very vulnerable for school failure, child trafficking and the school to prison pipeline.
It is completely unrealistic to think that those who are the most vulnerable among us can find a way to pull themselves up to a level of better living without some type of assistance. It is very odd that we do not find it difficult to see assistance and various types of subsidies being given to large corporations or to other types of business ventures, but find it so difficult to want to help individuals enough so that families can become stronger and more stable. If large groups of children are not being cared about, all of us suffer. The health and welfare of Georgia is heavily impacted by the way in which we provide for the children.
The Interfaith Children’s Movement knows that it is necessary for the laws to change also so that the systems that are now poised against children can be shifted to serve them better. This will create a more secure environment for children and make it clearer that exploiting and abusing them will not be tolerated in Georgia.
ICM has ambitious goals for itself. The plan is to develop a Child Advocacy Resource and Training Center to expand the current work of creating and sustaining a network of faith communities across the state. Join Ambassador Andrew Young and all of us for the 2015 annual Prayer Breakfast in October and help us to get this work done for our children. Please contact me if you would like more information about ICM.
This column by Catherine Meeks, Ph.D., appears twice monthly. Meeks is also a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.