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Not all TN Children Have Equal Opportunity to Thrive

PHOTO: A new scorecard on the progress of children in Tennessee shows the need to create more opportunity for kids of color as the state becomes more diverse. Photo credit: USDA.
PHOTO: A new scorecard on the progress of children in Tennessee shows the need to create more opportunity for kids of color as the state becomes more diverse. Photo credit: USDA.
April 1, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - As the state continues to grow more diverse, a new report shows more efforts are needed to make sure all Tennessee children are positioned to thrive. The analysis shows greater barriers for children of color, but Linda O'Neal, executive director, Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, said there are strategies that work to level the playing field.

"We can especially make a difference if we do things like expand pre-kindergarten programs and home visiting services that help families and children get off to a good start," O'Neal said. "We know family resource centers help young people who are in school, and we know that the more we do to keep children in school and learning, the better their prospects are to succeed - not only in school, but in life."

The Annie E. Casey Foundation report examined a dozen indicators of key childhood milestones in the areas of development, education and health. Overall, Tennessee ranked 32nd in the nation.

O'Neal said closing the racial divide is vital for the future vitality of all of Tennessee, so there must be a multi-sector approach to develop solutions.

"The report makes it clear that we all have a stake in improving opportunities and outcomes for children and their families. And that it requires the whole community - the business, the government, the faith community - it requires us all working together to ensure all children have opportunities to be successful," O'Neal explained.

The demographic changes and barriers for children of color in Tennessee are also similar nationwide. That is why efforts to provide equal opportunities are needed in all states, said Laura Speer, associate director, Annie E. Casey Foundation.

"We think it's a really critical time for the country to focus on improving outcomes for these kids, since they really are going to be the future success of the country," Speer said.

According to Census Bureau projections, by 2018 children of color will represent a majority of children in the U.S. By 2030, people of color will comprise a majority of the American labor force.

The full report, "Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children," is available at www.aecf.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - TN