07 December 2007

These are the children we need to think about

Many Children Struggling After ’05 Storms
Not all the children displaced by Katrina and Rita are hurt by exploding bags of chemicals like Isiah Polk. Most are hurt simply by the fact of their displacement and the continuing lack of stability.

At least 46,600 children along the Gulf Coast are still struggling with mental health problems and other serious aftereffects of 2005 hurricanes, according to a new study by the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University and the Children’s Health Fund.

There are more estimated numbers; 163,000 children displaced, 81,000 to 95,000 have returned to Mississippi and Louisiana, and 11,200 are still living in FEMA trailecs. These children are suffering from depression, anxiety and behavior problems. In places that lack doctors and for families that lack health insurance, I can't imagine that getting the needed psychiatric help is going to be easy.

What happens to the children when their lives are disrupted like this? What happens to children after wars? Or the Boxing Day Tsunami? Can we, as a first world country, do more for our children than a war torn nation?

I would like to say that we can, but given the response to Katrina thus far, I'm not holding my breath. This is an issue of public health that will have repercussions for years. Well adjusted children make healthy productive citizens; children plagued with behavior problems and anxiety have a much harder time getting to that same place. But thats taking a longer view than most conservatives seem able to. The idea that we the people, the tax payers have an obligation to see that the next generation is happy, productive and comfortable. Many conservatives seem to think of that as a "personal problem" that has no effect on them. They're wrong though.

At some point I saw, as I spun through the channels, a man stand up at some city council meeting. He wanted to know why he, a childless bachelor, had to pay for other people's children to go to school. Some elected official told him that he had to pay for their education because either they would be paying for his social security when he retired or he would have to pay for their jail cells with the taxes from the pay checks he would keep having to work for into his eighties. Snarky, yes, but true.

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