With nearly 200 pages, the 22nd Annual Kids Count Factbook creates a statistical image of Rhode Island’s children. Following 71 indicators of child and family well-being, from parental employment, average birth weight, to educational opportunities, the Factbook shows not only where the youth population stands but also what needs to change to see improvements in the lives of the state’s most vulnerable populations. Overall, Rhode Island has seen improvements, but it continues to struggle with race equity.
We perpetuate systems and beliefs that continue to oppress these minority populations, forcing them into a systemic cycle, without the opportunity to improve.
For one example, the Factbook found that while white youth take part in more youth crime than any other race, minority youth are disproportionately punished more severely for the same offenses. Minority children are more likely to be detained to the Training School.
Minority parents are also combating a higher unemployment rate – 12.2 percent for African Americans workers, 9.1 percent for Hispanic workers – than white populations, which stands at 5.2 percent. Rhode Island’s overall unemployment has been on a steady decline that has not manifested equally throughout populations.
Too often minority children are left out of the conversation. In doing so we leave behind a population of young men and women to struggle under the cycle of poverty. We strip them of the opportunity to succeed as they transition into adulthood, placing far too many hurdles to jump.
If we were to change that conversation, make serious policy improvements to better the lives of these children, we would reap the benefits for years to come.
These populations are left untapped. When children prosper, so does the state as a whole.
We leave behind a large portion of children we could one day benefit from. In offering more opportunities for children, we see more of those children become positive influences in their community. Future scientists, political figures and teachers are awaiting us within these populations.
If we want to see drastic improvements in the lives of our children, we must strive to see improvements in the lives of every child, no matter their race, orientation or disability.