Children in Jeopardy

Children in Jeopardy: Can We Break the Cycle of Poverty?

Irving B. Harris
Copyright Date: 1996
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 268
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt32bpc4
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Children in Jeopardy
    Book Description:

    American children are in crisis. Inner cities are filled with violence and massive drug problems; families are dysfunctional; illiteracy is rising; society's efforts to combat educational failure, poverty, crime, and disease have created an enormous economic debt for the future. In this compassionate and controversial book Irving Harris argues that the key to breaking the cycle of poverty, hopelessness, and violence is very early intervention: we must provide adequate caregiving to children from birth to age three and-to stop the cycle even sooner-we must discourage pregnancy among adolescents.

    Harris, a successful businessman, has devoted himself to children's causes for the past forty years and has initiated and funded numerous programs geared to children and families. He presents data from research in pediatrics, social work, nursing psychology, and education showing that children who receive early nurturing and stimulation are far more likely to have success in school and in life. He urges that the government build more day-care centers and train more caregivers and public-health nurses for babies and small children; that schools offer instruction and counseling in prenatal care; and that there be easier access to contraceptives and abortions in order to reduce unwanted pregnancies.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16224-0
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Donald J. Cohen

    TOO MANY of America’s children are not thriving. We may differ about the causes and cures, but not about the terrible problems faced by infants and young children. There is broad agreement among professionals and citizens and across the political spectrum that our nation suffers from poor public schools, where students do not learn as they should; from murder rates that are higher than in any other nation in the world; from an underclass plagued by premature births, infant mortality, functional illiteracy, and a sense of hopelessness; from violent inner cities, where children are exposed both as witnesses and victims;...

  4. PREFACE
    (pp. xv-xvii)
  5. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xviii-xxix)
  6. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xxx-xxxii)
  7. INTRODUCTION: AN ODYSSEY OF LEARNING
    (pp. 1-16)

    BY ONE CHINESE VIEW a human being’s position in time is that of a person sitting beside a river, always facing downstream while watching the water flow past. The future is behind you, above you, and below you, where you cannot examine it. My own odyssey of learning and reflecting on the cycle of poverty began more than forty years ago. Many of the landmarks on that journey consist of highly personal experiences, such as a book or an article I happened to read or a chance encounter. Other landmarks are more familiar, like the launching of the War on...

  8. 1 RAISED IN JEOPARDY
    (pp. 17-36)

    WHEN CHILDREN are born unplanned for and unwanted, they start life at a disadvantage. They are raised in jeopardy of poor outcomes in their level of socialization and education. Without proper nurturing, poorly cared for, they are raised in jeopardy of living their lives out of control, their destinies determined by the interacting risks and consequences of poor health, poverty, child abuse and neglect, out-of-home placement, violence, drug use, sexual victimization, and adolescent pregnancy.

    In the course of a long life I have come to appreciate the force of George Bernard Shaw’s observation that the mark of a truly educated...

  9. 2 SUCCESSFUL INTERVENTION AND ITS LIMITS
    (pp. 37-75)

    IN 1965 THOSE INVOLVED in President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty recognized the critical importance of getting children ready to learn before they entered kindergarten. The original intention was to have the program cover at least all three- and four-year-olds, but the funding was always below what would have been adequate to cover all eligible children. In 1990–92, because of raised but continuing limits imposed on funding, the $2.2 billion allotted in 1992 for the Head Start program was able to reach only 80 percent of eligible four-year-olds and only a tiny percentage of eligible three-year-olds.

    To most Americans,...

  10. 3 PRIMARY PREVENTION AND THE RIGHT TO LIFE
    (pp. 76-104)

    TEENAGERS ARE ESPECIALLY vulnerable to the risks of out-of-wedlock childbearing. Many high-risk students have slightly older sisters who have already had babies, or they have close friends whose slightly older sisters have borne babies. According toBeyond Rhetoric, a report by the National Commission on Children (1991), “Each year, half a million babies are born to teenage girls ill-prepared to assume the responsibilities of parenthood. Most of these mothers are unmarried, many have not completed their education, and few have prospects for an economically secure future. . . . Clearly, the problems that harm children and threaten the nation have...

  11. 4 THE COST OF FAILURE
    (pp. 105-119)

    A STORY TOLD by Reginald Lourie, one of the founders of the National Center for Clinical Infant Studies, speaks to the matter of intervention, also called secondary prevention. One bright, sunny afternoon, a group of friends gathered on the bank of a stream to have a picnic. They had just finished their preparations for lunch when someone shouted, “There is a child out there in the center of the stream.” One of the men kicked off his shoes and ran into the river to rescue the child. Just as he got back to shore and put the child on dry...

  12. 5 THE ABORTION QUESTION
    (pp. 120-145)

    IT IS GENEROUS TO ASSUME that all parents who wanted to have their babies, whether planned or unintended, can and will nurture their babies, read to them, and get them ready for school by age five. We know that unwanted babies are at a particularly high risk of educational failure. These babies are largely born to women who, too frequently, have no plans and little capability or desire to nurture and appropriately stimulate their children, especially during the vital first two or three years of life.

    Assuming that the present birth rate continues, we can expect about 4 million babies...

  13. 6 THE CYCLE OF POVERTY AND VIOLENCE: A REASSESSMENT
    (pp. 146-165)

    IN THE PAST THIRTY YEARS, since the War on Poverty began, we have been learning that our nation’s problems are a lot more difficult than we used to think they were. Solving them will require much better programsandsubstantial federal funding. Ye t if the solutions are to merit federal funding at a time of federal budget austerity, we will have to be a lot more hard-headed about our premises and plans than has been necessary in the past.

    As far back as 1908 our nation’s policy toward children has been based almost entirely on humanitarian grounds. We felt...

  14. 7 TRENDS IN EDUCATION, POVERTY, VIOLENCE, AND PUNISHMENT
    (pp. 166-193)

    THE FOUR ISSUES of this chapter’s title are inseparable. As the quality of our schools declines, literacy plummets, causing poverty to soar. Poverty leads to violence, and violence leads to punishment. Poverty contributes to higher rates of unintended pregnancy, and attempts to punish poor women by refusing them abortions perpetuate the larger cycle of poverty.

    Our nation must solve the problem of poverty if we are to continue to progress. Without a solution, we will slide into the status of a second-class nation, no longer a world leader. Competitively, we will be unable to keep up in the world, and...

  15. 8 BREAKING THE CYCLE: A NEW WAR ON POVERTY, 1996
    (pp. 194-206)

    THE PUBLIC POLICY predicament facing our nation is delineated in the following statement from the Institute of Medicine’s National Forum: “The interrelationship [between] the causal factors requires an equally integrated approach to the solutions. Throughout the reports, a recurring message is thatto find lasting solutions to the problems of children and families, it is necessary to address many issues simultaneously, including the state of the economy, the quality of education, the condition and availability of work, and the general welfare system” (emphasis added). I would also add to the list of problems decent, safe housing; wages at least double...

  16. APPENDIX A: AGENCIES WORKING FOR FAMILIES AND CHILDREN
    (pp. 207-209)
  17. APPENDIX B: THE OUNCE OF PREVENTION CENTER FOR SUCCESSFUL CHILD DEVELOPMENT HEALTH SERVICES : A MODEL
    (pp. 210-211)
  18. NOTES
    (pp. 212-214)
  19. REFERENCES
    (pp. 215-222)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 223-236)