A cultural shift necessary to benefit children (copy)

(Bedford) Times-Mail

Some disturbing realities about Indiana’s children are evident in the 2015 Kids Count Data Book released by the Indiana Youth Institute. Equally disturbing is the clear fact that the most severe challenges faced by the state’s children can’t be easily addressed.

In the end, the evolution toward positive change can come about only when parents, in their given households, exercise resolve to make sure their children are given every chance for opportunity and success. It’s reasonable to assert that such change actually should begin with careful planning on the part of would-be parents.

The long-term solution is found in building a culture focused on careful preparation for parenthood. In doing so, the Hoosier state could see fewer children living in poverty, fewer parents who struggle with employment, and fewer pregnant mothers who, by smoking, imperil the well-being of unborn children.

Some might argue that single-parent households factor little into the state’s poverty-related statistics. But, the data book shows that more than 40 percent of Indiana children are born to single mothers, which Bill Stancyzkiewicz, chief executive officer of the Indiana Youth Institute, reports is another contributor to the high child poverty rate.

The reality is that a household often suffers when it’s supported by a single income versus two incomes. Children could benefit from a societal mind-set that focuses on the value of two people forming a solid, committed relationship. And, for them to assume complete, day-to-day responsibility for children born to their union can only foster a child’s financial, physical and emotional well-being.

The psychological effects experienced by children living in poverty also must be recognized, and finding ways that society as a whole can counter those circumstances also must be paramount in a culture that promotes success for all children. Stancyzkiewicz, in a story circulated by the Indiana News Service, maintains that poor children need to believe they can have bright future.

“It’s so easy for kids to think that success is for somebody else, opportunity is for somebody else. … There’s this utter hopelessness that can settle in,” Stancyzkiewicz said.

Another disturbing statistic is related to infant mortality, with the data book reporting Indiana infants are 25 percent more likely to die within their first year of life than the national average.

But, one in six Indiana mothers smoke while pregnant, and that is a contributor to the high infant mortality rate. That’s unacceptable, and reversing it isn’t likely without a cultural shift that relentlessly warns pregnant moms of the risks associated with smoking.

Such cultural changes aren’t easy, and in a world where too many people are more eager to promote self-interests than the overall good of children, the shifts won’t come easily.

But the alarming statistics in the new data book could be a springboard for making Hoosiers at least think about how children can benefit from a collective mind-set that indisputably puts youngsters first.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to awoods@tribtown.com.