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Starting Right: How America Neglects Its Youngest Children and What We Can Do about It
     

Starting Right: How America Neglects Its Youngest Children and What We Can Do about It

by Sheila B. Kamerman, Alfred J. Kahn
 

America has long been heralded as the land of opportunity, but for our very youngest citizens, it is too often a land of despair. Every year, a shocking 32,000 American babies die before they reach their first birthday. More than one-quarter of the children under age three live in families with incomes below the poverty line, and only 67% of children under two get

Overview


America has long been heralded as the land of opportunity, but for our very youngest citizens, it is too often a land of despair. Every year, a shocking 32,000 American babies die before they reach their first birthday. More than one-quarter of the children under age three live in families with incomes below the poverty line, and only 67% of children under two get the necessary series of immunizations needed to protect them from life-threatening illnesses. Despite America's world leadership in research in child healthcare and development, in all the statistical indicators of children's well-being--physical, developmental, educational and behavioral--we lag well behind most advanced industrialized societies. While recent years have seen some piecemeal attention paid to policy issues affecting preschoolers aged three to five, our infants and toddlers are still perilously ignored, largely invisible in American social policy.

In Starting Right, internationally recognized child and family policy experts Sheila B. Kamerman and Alfred J. Kahn present the pressing practical, political, and moral reasons why we must invest more time and money in America's youngest children, and their families. Singling out the best of current childcare policies and practices in the U.S. and western Europe, they call for a three-pronged approach to helping parents raise young children well: ensuring adequate income through strategies such as a child tax credit; providing essential services such as children's healthcare, child care, and family support programs; and offering working parents more generous leaves to spend time with their children. Kamerman and Kahn carefully assess the costs of implementing each of their proposals, demonstrating that the price is neither unreasonable nor beyond our means. Drawing on their own studies and all the latest research, the authors show that this investment in our children's early years is ultimately cheaper in both financial and human terms than the alternatives we live with now. For example in 1950, when Finland was just establishing its healthcare system, the infant mortality rate was 43.5 per 1,000 live births. The Finnish system emphasizes free and universal access to healthcare for all citizens, including family planning services, prenatal care, and home visits by nurses to families with newborns. Contagious childhood diseases have now been virtually eliminated, and by 1990 the infant mortality rate had plunged to 5.5 per 1,000, making Finland the world leader in the conquest of infant mortality.

A clarion call to action and a reasoned and attainable prescription for change, Starting Right lays the groundwork for providing all of America's youngest children with the fighting chance they deserve to lead happy, healthy, and productive lives. At stake are our children's futures, and America's future as well.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"An excellent and challenging examination of child welfare issues. A call for action. Provocative."--John M. Herrick. Michigan State University

"Makes all the right points about what babies and toddlers need."--Joan Beck, Chicago Tribune

"A tour de force. Clearly enough written for assignment to undergraduates, yet sophisticated in its analysis. Makes skillful use of West European comparisons to highlight America's problems. Ideal for courses on the welfare state or social policy."--Claire F. Ullman, Department of Political Science, Barnard College

"Kamerman and Kahn draw on their family policy expertise...to explain why we must allot more resources to America's youngest citizens and their families....This reasonable and persuasive book tackles a tough situation thoughtfully, while also providing a blueprint for change."--Booklist

"A good resource for U.S. policymakers."--Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The youngest Americans, the under-threes, are the focus of this study by two professors at the Columbia University School of Social Work. Inadequate attention to these children's development, according to the authors, is reflected in shocking statistics of babies dying before their first birthdays, of immunizations going unperformed and of families living below the poverty line. They depict the United States as lagging behind other industrial nations in the provision of family support that allows children to ``start right.'' They cite strategies of child care and family support in effect in several western European countries and note that ``The United States is unique in its failure to offer even the most modest of packages'' for enhancing preschool readiness and child welfare. Bolstered by research and prescriptions that include cost analysis, this presentation is a good resource for U.S. family policymakers. (July)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195096750
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
01/28/1995
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.00(d)
Lexile:
1430L (what's this?)

Meet the Author

About the Authors:

Dr. Sheila B. Kamerman is Professor and Dr. Alfred J. Kahn is Professor Emeritus at the Columbia University School of Social Work, where they both teach Social Policy and Planning and co-direct the Cross-national Studies Research Program. They are co-authors and co-editors of sixteen books and of numerous chapters and articles in the fields of comparative child and family policy, child care, parental leave, income transfers, and personal social services.

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