Updated: Sep 14
We all, of course, want to help kids and see them lead great lives. However, once you discover how significant the long-term effects are, of a childhood lacking in positive and essential elements and learn about all of the external factors that influence child’s development, you come to realize how important it is for us, the adults and people that have the ability to help, to do what we can for them.
There are issues that we, as individuals, might not know about or be able to help with because they require a professional helping hand, so we decided to focus on a couple of the issues that WE, the community, can help battle against. In Helping Children Stay Safe, Warm, and Dry: An Interview with Nancy Woodland of Westside Baby we focused on the need for how having basic items such as diapers, clothes, strollers and so forth help in the development of a child. We wanted to take the issue of at-risk children further though, and provide insight on how the issues of health, nutrition and environment also play key roles, as well as ways that you can contribute in making a positive impact.
HEALTH & NUTRITION
Nutrition and routine preventative medical care are two factors that are major contributors to a child’s developmental growth and academic success. With 1 in 6 children living with hunger in the United States, it is no small issue affecting our kids. An unbalanced and unpredictable food situation for children can lead to 76% of them having slower cognitive, language and behavioral development, which can have a lasting effect on their future. Children that experience food insecurity are also 90% more likely to have poor health, and 31% more likely to spend time in a hospital. These issues then affect children’s schoolwork and success, with studies showing that 46% of them having a negative impact on their academic performance, leading to lower math scores, missing school, and possibly repeating a grade. Missing school also worsens the problem in a less obvious way, children having access to food. There are 22 million kids that rely on schools to provide their consistent meals through free or reduced lunches programs.
There are many programs set up to help combat these issues, and you can even help in a big way without ever leaving your home – VOTE. Although the voter turnout for 18-29 year olds jumped from 20% to 36% since 2014, that is still 30 million, not voting. Many people hesitate to vote based on a lack of political knowledge or because they don’t like the choices presented. Don’t vote on those things then. Vote for the things you know you want for your community such as increasing school budgets, Medicare and Medicaid, SNAP and WIC. These all provide necessities to families in need.
There are also many charities in our area that provide food to children and families in need. FareStart, Food Lifeline, Northwest Harvest, Seattle Food Banks, Solid Ground and United Way of King County are just a few. Volunteering to help distribute and package food, and donating food or financially, are all much needed and appreciated help. Contact local charities or YP Impact, to find out how you can help.
Environment is a broad term. It includes everything from home to school, and from neighborhood to social activities. Once again, we may not have the ability to help change the homelife for kids, but we do have the ability to make an impact on other parts of the world that surround them and can help build a positive environment for them.
Children in poverty or in negative environments, such as underfunded schools or social activities, see an increase in several issues. They are more likely to have behavioral problems or lack social skills. Their academic success and continued education drops significantly, leading to staggering increases in their chances of living below the poverty line. Their chances of being involved in criminal activity goes up as much as seven times. Studies show that educational services, after school activities and community involvement provide a much-needed resource for children to be able to succeed through childhood and to have a positive future.
Many school districts such as Seattle Public Schools have opportunities to tutor or help students, to give them the much-needed one on one attention that many of our overcrowded schools can’t provide. Sites such as Volunteer Match, United Way and SMCU, provide a great list of local programs that need volunteers to help. There are also youth sports at schools or recreational teams that need people to assist and coach. And then remembering your local YMCA, Big Brothers/Sisters, and Boys & Girls Clubs are always looking for volunteers to participate in the many programs that they provide.
All of these issues, services, and charities make lasting impacts on children. Having positive role models, consistent meals, access to healthcare, tutoring, after school activities and mentorship all provide children that may not have been given many opportunities a fighting chance. And it is our responsibility to fight next to them.
Passionate about helping at-risk children? Grab some drinks and test your knowledge of sports while helping raise funds for Westside Baby at YP Impact’s Trivia Night on September 18th.
YP Impact is a budding community of young professionals with an interest in giving back to the community we live, work and play in. If you’re interested in joining the community or just hearing more, visit this page and sign up to follow along.