We fared a bit better in education, coming in 47th, yet 21 percent of our high school students do not graduate on time, and 49 percent of children ages three and four are not in early education.

Dear editor:

The Annie E. Casey Foundation has released its annual KIDS COUNT data, and Louisiana has fallen from 48th to 49th in overall child well-being. We rank last in economic well-being, with 29 percent of our children living in poverty. We fared a bit better in education, coming in 47th, yet 21 percent of our high school students do not graduate on time, and 49 percent of children ages three and four are not in early education.

We’ve heard these horrible numbers so often, most of us shrug our shoulders, say, “It’s a shame” and move on. Yet we cannot allow ourselves this luxury anymore. Our children – our state’s future – deserve more from us.

It is easy to place blame at the hands of parents, at failing systems, at government, but we’ve all learned that the blame game is not helping anyone. Those of us who were frustrated that it took three Special Sessions for the Legislature to pass a budget must now ask ourselves: what am I doing to create a better Louisiana for our children who are hungry, who are not sure where they will sleep tonight, who are scared to go home because they fear abuse, who cannot concentrate at school because they are broken from trauma and have no idea how to express it?

And what of the parents? How are we working with them to ensure they have resources to help their families, to have transportation to doctor’s appointments, to have access to education to improve their situations, or simply to have a night off once in a while without worrying about what is happening to their children?

The work of child abuse prevention is relatively new, with the first national law against child maltreatment being passed in 1974. There is more research each year on how best to create policies, programs and awareness. When the CDC issued five strategies to prevent child maltreatment in 2016, PCAL took them on as our focus areas: strengthen economic supports to families; change social norms to support parents and positive parenting; provide quality care and education early in life; enhance parenting skills to promote healthy child development; and intervene to lessen harms and prevent future risks.

By working on these goals, we hope to see Louisiana’s dismal numbers swing up. This will take time, energy and money. But there is one thing we know that can positively impact every child in our state, today, right now: a safe, stable nurturing relationship with a trusted adult. Children who can’t trust a parent may be able to trust an aunt, a teacher, a baseball coach or a pastor.

Look around you. Where is that child that you can provide with a safe, stable relationship? Can you offer an ear to listen, a hug, or a good meal with your family, so that child sees what a loving family looks like?

There is a world of possibilities and hope for Louisiana’s future, but we all must play a role in protecting our children and providing them with the resources they need to thrive. I challenge you to find that child whose life you can transform today, simply by being there.

Amanda Brunson

Executive Director

Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana