It is a fact and an inevitability that the children are our future. On the one hand this suggests hope, promise and possibility. The idea that humanity’s fate will be entrusted to the most loving, compassionate and honest among our species can be a comforting thought and represents an idyllic, romantic aspect of our culture.
In Whitney Houston’s iconic ballad, “Greatest Love of All,” we are reminded that “the children are our future,” and that we must “teach them well and let them lead the way.” Likewise, the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson and a cohort of renowned singers and musicians briefly drove the narrative about youth inheriting the planet with the transformative song, “We Are the World.”
However, in the real world, do we really revere our children as the future caretakers of society, are we setting an example and developing a blueprint for them to follow, are we teaching them well in preparation for them to “lead the way?” Unfortunately, statistics describing child poverty and homelessness, incarceration, murder, abuse and neglect and miseducation, say NO!
Not only are the circumstances our children are growing up in antithetical to the training they will require to rescue the world from the seemingly intractable problems we’re leaving on their plates, it is not hyperbole to suspect that they are being unintentionally conditioned to fail at that task. The recent COVID 19 pandemic, the current climate crisis, and threatening international military conflicts are glaring examples of the types of complex emergencies our children face.
More immediately, how will today’s children overcome the daily obstacles they confront which challenges their personal survival and inhibits their ability to even consider the world’s larger global problems awaiting them? Recent test scores of Baltimore City public school students reporting 7% and 16% respective proficiency in math and reading will not prepare children to successfully negotiate society’s challenges.
Although the educational bureaucracy bears a huge responsibility for the dismal test results of Baltimore’s children, consider the number of conflicts, distractions and burdens city students take to school with them daily along with their books.
The statistics we regularly hear about: the shootings, murders, arrests, overdoses, robberies, rapes, burglaries, gang violence, domestic violence, housing, food and utility insecurity, pest infestation and bullying, among other crises, are real aspects of real children’s everyday lives in Baltimore City and is a major impediment underlying their inability to be more successful.
Consider these statistics that collectively define who Baltimore City’s children are and how they live:
- Ninety percent of all juveniles arrested in Baltimore are African American, but only 64 percent of the city’s youth population is African American
- Black children are 77% of juvenile detention center admissions, white children less than 18% and Hispanic children 6-7 %; 31.6% of Maryland children are African American, 41.4% are white and 15.5% Hispanic
- Juvenile violent crime rates rose 37% according a 2019 report
- Juvenile shooting victims are being assaulted at the rate of one every 48 hours
- One-in-eight victims of gun violence is a juvenile
- From 2016 to 2020, there were 24 child homicides committed by a parent or caregiver
- 69.2% of the intake cases among children of color statewide were misdemeanor crimes while 13% were crimes of violence, 9.4% were felonies
- 90% of the referrals of youth of color came from police, while just 3% came from citizens and adult court transfers
- 96.1% of children admitted in the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center were Black, while whites, Hispanics and other races combined accounted for less than four
- More than 600 children in the Baltimore archdiocese were victims of clergy sexual abuse
- Abused or neglected children’s likelihood of arrest as juvenile offenders increase by 59%
- 33% of arrested juveniles are charged as adults
- 60% of residents are considered housing insecure due to nearly one-third of their incomes covering rent
- 33% of children are food insecure
- 33% of all residents (approximately 200,000 people) are in the SNAP program
- More than one-third of children live below the federal poverty line
- Most renters live in substandard or dilapidated housing
- There are roughly 33,000 opioid addicted residents, most are parents
- Reports of students being bullied on school property ranged from 37% to 40.4% in 2019
- Student victims missed school in 11.9% of bullying cases
- Baltimore ranks 8th most rat-infested city in America
- City government received approximately 26,000 more home rat abatement requests in 2022 over 2020
How can children coming of age in this environment thrive? How will Baltimore City thrive in the future?