EarlyStories, like much of the world, has been struck by the heartbreaking photographs, images and stories about the lives of children after the devastating earthquake in Haiti.
Today’s New York Times recounted how the country’s children — who represent 45 percent of the population — have lost parents, homes and schools and suffered grave injuries. They have nowhere to sleep and little food. The Wall Street Journal reported on the challenges facing an AIDS clinic that must rebuild; it included an interview with a woman who lost two of her children and described some of dire shortages the tragic country needs just to get through each day. And the Associated Press also focused on the plight of children.
The press is playing an important role here by bringing attention to the needs of newly orphaned and gravely injured children, including providing lists of resources on how to help.
EarlyStories has been keeping a close eye on how small children are faring in the worsening economy, and applauding the efforts of journalists who report on the connection. A story in the Detroit News took note of how auto industry woes and rising unemployment are hurting child care providers in a state where the jobless rate has reached 9.6 percent. — the highest monthly rate since 1992.
Child care centers in Michigan are cutting staff and reducing payroll hours and more children are remaining at home or in scattered child care arrangements that threaten their sense of security and could lead to emotional problems down the road, the story notes.
Other journalists, including Donna St. George of the Washington Post, have discovered troubling trends such as the large numbers of children who have been pulled out of child care arrangements and left to fend for themselves at home. It’s an example of a sad and frightening education trend that has society-wide implications.
The tough times provide an opportunity for education journalists to connect the work they do with the broader economic troubles their communities are facing, including the youngest and most vulnerable.
(The trends in child well-being are well worth watching, as they reflect larger social and economic changes.
While studies are often just a starting point for journalists, it was surprising to find so little coverage of the new Duke University “>study of children’s well-being underwritten by the Foundation for Child Development.
The study, released at the New America Foundation in Washington D.C. last week, found that progress in American children’s quality of life has stalled after an eight-year upward trend — and that a worsening economy is likely to negatively affect U. S. children for years to come. Areas to watch range from infant mortality rates to publicly financed childcare and health and education programs.
One interesting finding — the eight year upward improvement trend may have been related to a post 9/11 sense of common purpose in the country. Another important — and somewhat frightening — trend to watch will be the many ways an economic downturn may worsen conditions for children.
The study is an excellent starting point, and hopefully will spur coverage and original reporting about these trends throughout the U.S. One mention came in a Houston Chronicle blog item. The study raises critical questions and introduces data that should be localized by journalists.
At the very least, much of the data can be incorporated into important stories on everything from birth rates and infant mortality to pre-school enrollment — which, by the way, improved according to the report.