Investing In The Future

Investing in the Future
Tobin Lichti
Psych 101
Jon Drummond
TU 11:05
Welfare and school reform are two of the most widely discussed issues in
politics today. Many people are calling for reduction or elimination welfare
programs as well as programs that provide breakfast and lunch at schools. They
argue that people should be able to provide for themselves and their children
with minimal government assistance, and spending other people’s tax dollars to
assist the less fortunate only makes the problem worse. The main problem with
this line of thinking is that it forgets about the children involved. Children
have no control over what family they are born into. Many are born into
situations, such as single parent families, where the families have no way of
giving their children a good chance of developing into healthy, well adjusted
adults. Something must be done to break this cycle, because besides helping
children to develop to their full potential, government assistance “saves
society the costs incurred when intellectually and socially impaired children
grow up to be intellectually and socially impaired adults”(Collins 59).

The need for some sort of assistance for many children became obvious to
me on a volunteer project I did in high school. The summer after my junior year
I took a trip to San Antonio with about twenty other students. We were divided
between two different projects, and I went to work in a summer day-care program
in an underprivileged area. The day-care was for children aged infant to
eighteen, and on an average day about 175 children would come through. They
only had two full time workers, and relied on volunteer groups that came through
about once or twice a month to help them. They used to have more workers, but
lacked the funding necessary to keep anyone on permanently. Many of the
children were dropped off before the center opened at 8:00 in the morning, and
the meals they received at the center were the only meals they got all day.

Almost all the children showed a great need for attention and affection. It was
this experience that made me realize that many children grow up without a real
chance at a decent life.

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Helping children early is crucial. Much research has been done recently
on early childhood development, and there is much evidence that there are
windows of learning for the development of vision, feelings, language and other
things. A window of learning means that there is a certain period of time in
child development when the brain “demands certain types of input in order to
create or stabilize certain long-lasting structures”(Nash 53). This type of
research backs up the idea that helping kids as early as possible is very
important in order to insure proper development. The problem that arises is
that there are many families, especially single parent ones, that cannot afford
to stay at home or provide their children with quality child care. The current
welfare system does allow states to let the mother care for the infant for as
long as a year before they must seek a job, but most states require it much
earlier, as early as 12 weeks after the infant is born (Collins 60). I would
propose a system where the mother would be given a year before having to look
for a job. During this time she, along with her husband if still married, would
be required to attend weekly classes or counseling sessions that would teach
them nutritional, educational, and other care that is essential for the child to
reach its full potential.

After the age of one, a government funded program of day care needs to
be set up. This would allow underprivileged families to afford decent child
care. This could also help the conditions of the day cares such as the one I
described in San Antonio improve, insuring that the children are provided with
adequate care. Federal regulations about things such as the ratio of staff to
children and safety standards would improve the environment the children grow up
in, and in many cases be better than living at home.

Another concern in the development of children is proper nutrition.

School lunch programs that provide free or reduced lunches help many children
get their only decent meal of the day. Many areas are starting to provide
school breakfast programs, and this is being met with much opposition. People
feel that they shouldn’t have to use tax dollars to provide a meal for children
that they should receive before they get to school. But, the sad truth is that
many children aren’t given breakfast before they are sent to school. Some
research suggests that eating breakfast helps children perform better during
school hours by increasing their attention and motivation. Test scores and
sports performance of children who eat breakfast on a regular basis tend to be
higher than those of children who don’t eat breakfast (Wardlaw & Insel 640).

Most of the opposition to programs like the one I have proposed is based
on money. People simply don’t feel that it is necessary for their hard earned
tax dollars to be used to raise other peoples children. They also point to the
fact that there is no hard evidence that these types of programs will really
work. However, there is a certain urgency for something to be done to break the
cycle of poverty and stagnation. In referring to programs for young children,
Isabel Sawhill, a scholar at the Urban Institute has written, “The evidence is
always mixed. We simply do not know whether they work. In these cases, one
must weigh the risk of doing something and having it not work against the risk
of doing nothing and missing an opportunity to improve lives. It can be just as
costly to not fund a potentially successful program as it is to fund a
potentially unsuccessful one” (Collins 62). Helping children today is an
investment in the future of our country, and the potential rewards outweigh the

Collins, James. “The Day Care Dilemma”. Time. 3 Feb 97, pp. 58-62.

Nash, J. Madeleine. “Fertile Minds”. Time. 3 Feb 97, pp. 48-56.

Wardlaw, Gordon M. ; Insel, Paul M. Perspectives in Nutrition. 3rd edition
Mosby-Year Book, Inc. 1996, p 640