Hope is real
WinnipegFreepress.com – opinion/editorials
Oct. 13, 2012.
Finally, a report that says change is possible and hope is not naive.
The Manitoba Centre for Health Policy spent 10 years studying the well-being of the province’s children, defined as anyone under 19, and discovered a decrease in teen pregnancy and grade repetition over that time, as well as an increase in high school graduation rates and fewer hospitalizations.
There was bad news, too, all of it predictable. Kids from poor neighbourhoods and the north aren’t doing as well as children from higher-income families. They do worse in school, and have higher rates of involvement with hospitals and the child-care system, according to the 350-page report.
A key finding, however, emerged as the report’s researchers examined the trajectory of children from Kindergarten to Grade 3. It naturally found that vulnerable children were more prone to failing to meet expectations by Grade 3 than better-off children.
But they also discovered that the failure of the poorest kids was not preordained. Nearly 20 per cent of youngsters who started out as vulnerable, or in need of help, ended up meeting Grade 3 expectations.
“Even better,” the report says, kids from poorer neighbourhoods, as a percentage, were more likely to experience a positive trajectory, compared to those from the richest areas of the province. The report calls this trend deflection, meaning children who should have done poorly somehow turned around and met expectations by Grade 3.
“What this says is that trajectories are not necessarily permanent, and that perhaps with the right types of interventions, we can work to ensure that over time there are more positive deflections than negative ones.”
The report makes several broad recommendations, but its most important conclusion is that “fate is not inevitable.”
Indeed, with report after report from various groups complaining about the persistence of child poverty, there is a risk of becoming cynical, of dismissing the problem as unsolvable and intractable.
Human beings can overcome hardships and they have been doing that for thousands of years.
Good programs, moreover, do make a difference, but there is a need to evaluate the health, child care and education systems to ensure the right mix of supports are being applied in the right doses. Pre-school programs, for example, should be expanded to give children a better head-start on life.
The report should be studied by the appropriate authorities, but also by anyone who thinks progress is impossible.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 13, 2012 A14
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