When COVID-19 began we all anticipated the return to a “normal” day. Some longed for the normalcy of going to restaurants or socializing with loved ones. Many children missed their school friends and were anxious to return. Children in poverty missed not only their friends but also the stability of receiving meals each day at school and having access to the internet and other tools needed for learning.
Community Foundation of North Louisiana recently published its Step Forward 2021 Report to the Community. The report provides a deep dive into the data indicators effecting our most precious North Louisiana citizens, our children. While there are some positives trends in the report, many data indicators require our immediate attention as a community.
According to the most recent report, nearly 50% of African American children and youth in our community live in poverty versus 16% for white children. The poverty rate for Hispanic or Latino children and youth in poverty is just over 42%. “Disparities in child and youth poverty show up later as differences in adult educational attainment and in the disparate distributions of workers into middle class occupations. The most recent best estimate of adults with less than a high school diploma is 9% for Whites, 18% for African Americans, and 28% for Latinos.” Hinze, Wesley M. 2021. Step Forward Report to the Community 2021 (Report No. 7). For children living in poverty the barriers to learning that exist, like lack of access to reliable Wi-Fi, make a “normal” day much more difficult.
Complex problems like poverty cannot be solved easily or overnight. As a community we must use data, like that in the Report to the Community¸ to set goals, plan effective programs, and evaluate the effectiveness of those programs. There is no one person, entity, or municipality that can implement effective solutions alone. Public/private partnerships, like those created by the Step Forward Network partners, must exist to bring about effective change. Now is the time to bring about change for our most vulnerable citizens. We cannot afford to wait.
I recently came across a poem by Mary Jean Irion that reminded me of the simple beauty and privilege of my normal day.
Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, savor you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it will not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taught, or raise my hands to the sky, and want more than all the world your return. And then I will know what I now am guessing: that you are, indeed, a common rock and not a jewel, but that a common rock made of the very mass substance of the earth in all its strength and plenty puts a gem to shame.
All children deserve such a day. To learn more about Step Forward, an initiative of Community Foundation of North Louisiana, or to view the 2021 Report to the Community, please visit: cfnla.org/stepforward.
This article was written by CFNLA CEO Kristi Gustavson and originally published in the Shreveport Times on August 14, 2021.