This simple statement, made by James Garbarino in his book Raising Children in a Socially Toxic Environment, concisely and appropriately describes the current state of children and youth in America. Garbarino suggests that children today are being brought up in a socially toxic environment where violence, divorce, racism, addiction, educational failure, poor physical health, and adult emotional problems are just a few of the "toxic" social forces converging on children, robbing them of their innocence and dignity. Moreover, he argues, children who are faced with economic distress and poverty are particularly vulnerable. For them the risks are compounded, as they lack the defenses and supports needed to combat the toxicity surrounding them.
According to the Children's Defense Fund, 13.5 million children living in America today are poor, and 5.8 million of them are living in extreme poverty, with incomes below half the poverty line. The issues related to poverty -- from substandard housing and malnutrition, to inadequate health and child care services, to severe emotional stress and violence -- are complex and interconnected. Therefore, attempting to understand the problem and propose possible solutions appears to be an overwhelming task. Garbarino effectively provides a lens through which to view the social forces affecting childhood development. Aletha Huston, on the other hand, in her book Children in Poverty: Child Development and Public Policy, proposes a "child-centered" analysis, which focuses on the child's healthy development as "a goal in its own right," rather than as part of a larger social-economic context.
A compromise must be r...
... middle of paper ...
...dequate living conditions, and a safe environment - as children who are not poor. This means accepting responsibility for the current state of American children and youth. It means facing the hard truth that the child -- and the child's parents -- do not stand alone, unaffected by outside forces, completely responsible for their poverty and deserving of their unfortunate situations. They are instead in the middle of a great number of "rings," boundaries and obstacles, which were created by social and economic institutions and attitudes. The American child living in poverty today did not choose to be born into a socially toxic environment. We must strive to make their surroundings stable, safe, and optimal for their development, so that their own children will not be faced with the same toxins, and fewer and fewer children will be in less and less trouble.
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