How many Black children you know considered at-risk?

The Children Defense Fund report states that children who are considered at risk are those who live in poverty.  How many kids do you know personally that live in poverty?  I think we need to define what’s the definition of  “poverty” according to theUnited Statesgovernment.  Well, the government is using a dollar ($) measure in calculating if a person is living poverty.  For example, a family of 4 living in poverty is making $22,050 or less.  A table is used in the calculation that was created in 1960.  Everyone agrees that it’s outdated but no one is doing anything about the guide so the “poor” is being taken advantage of again by the very source they look to for help, the government.
Another risk is babies born to young single moms. In the Black community its almost a normal state to see single moms and their children.  Yes, its more than just one child born to a single parent.  Even the girls/young ladies that tote bibles to church on Sunday morning are having babies.  And in some cases the father is never mentioned even during the pregnancy. 

So how many children do you know that are at risk because of being born into poverty and born to young single mothers too?

America’s Cradle to Prison Pipeline – 5

Why there is there a large prison population of Black males?

This blog is dedicated to making aware the Children’s Defense Fund  campaign Cradle to Prison Pipeline and providing excerpts from the report in spoon size pieces in an effort to understand what’s happening in the Black community and provide an answer to the large population of Black males in prison. 

 A Call to End Adult Hypocrisy, Neglect and Abandonment of Children and America’s Cradle to Prison Pipeline

This very painful report onAmerica’s Cradle to Prison Pipeline® crisis is a loud siren of

alarm and wake up call to action to every parent, faith, community, public policy,

political and cultural leader, child and family serving agency and citizen.

I am often asked “What’s wrong with our children?” Children having children.

Children killing children. Children killing others. Children killing themselves. Children

roaming streets alone or in gangs all day and night. Children floating through life like

driftwood on a beach. Children addicted to tobacco and alcohol and heroin and

cocaine and pot, drinking and drugging themselves to death to escape reality.

Children running away from home and being thrown away or abused and neglected

by parents. Children being locked up in jails with adult criminal mentors or all alone.

Children bubbling with rage and crushed by depression.

Well adults are what’s wrong with our children. Parents letting children raise

themselves or be raised by television or the Internet. Children being shaped by peers

and gangs and foul mouth rappers instead of parents, grandparents and kin. Children

roaming the streets because there’s nobody at home or paying enough attention.

Children going to drug houses that are always open instead of to school houses and

church houses, mosques and temples that are too often closed. Children seeing

adults take and sell drugs and be violent to each other and to them. Adults telling children

one thing and doing another. Adults making promises we don’t keep and preaching

what we don’t practice. Adults telling children to control themselves while slapping

and spanking. Adults telling children to be honest while lying and cheating in our

homes, offices and public life. Adults telling children not to be violent while marketing

and glorifying violence and tolerating gun saturated war zones in communities all

across our land. Adults telling children to be healthy while selling them junk food and

addicting them to smoke and drink and careless sex.

Our “child and youth problem” is not a child and youth problem;

it is a profound adult problem as our children do what they see

us adults doing in our personal, professional and public lives.

What’s wrong with our children? We are what’s wrong with our children. And I

hope God will help us to repent, to open our eyes and ears and see and hear our children’s

cries for help and guidance, and act to save them allnow!

What must children feel when parents, kin, neighbors and cultural icons abuse

drugs and engage in or condone violent behavior? What must children feel when

those entrusted with caring for them in their homes, neighborhoods, schools and

other institutions abuse and neglect them? How great must be their fear and anger

when parents and relatives are snatched away from them by drugs and gun violence

and incarceration. How scary it must be for a child to sleep in an unsafe shelter full

of strangers with no place to call home. How angry and rejected a child or teen must

feel when there is no loving, reliable person s/he can trust and who is being shunted

from one family foster home or group home to another and from one school that suspends

and expels him to another. How isolated and alone it must feel when no one sees or

cares whether you’re truant or home before dark or struggling to see the blackboard

or have a learning disorder. What can children believe when important adults in their

lives tell them in word and deed that they are not worth much and treat them as a burden

rather than a gift, don’t expect and help them to achieve, or abandon them altogether to

raise themselves? What do children learn about right and wrong when they see corporate

leaders being arrested for pillaging their corporations and the life blood of

workers, seniors and stockholders? How can children trust political leaders who

repeatedly promise to alleviate their poverty, to rebuild their flooded homes and

schools, to ease their suffering and then leave them like debris still waiting over two

years later, in a purgatory of hopelessness and uncertainty, for their nation to help

them heal their monstrous losses and to prepare them for productive lives? Who can

children believe when religious leaders, charged by their faith to protect and nurture

them, abuse them instead? And who can rudderless children and youth look up to as

s/heroes in a culture that permits violence and guns and prison and underachievement

to be promoted as cool, almost as rites of passage, and bling as worth living,

killing and dying for?

It is time for adults of every race and income group to break our silence about

the pervasive breakdown of moral, family, community and national values, to place our

children first in our lives, and to struggle to model the behavior we want our children

to learn. Our “child and youth problem” is not a child and youth problem, it is a profound

adult problem as our children do what they see us adults doing in our personal, professional

and public lives. They seek our attention in negative ways when we provide

them too few positive ways to communicate and to get the attention and love they

need. And we choose to punish and lock them up rather than take the necessary,

more cost-effective steps to prevent and intervene early to ensure them the healthy,

head, safe, fair and moral start in life they need to reach successful adulthood.


A Need for a Comprehensive Continuum of
Support from Birth to Adulthood

Children and families do not come in pieces or neat packages that fit one or
another “program” or “strategy.” They are a complex amalgam of biological potential
and environmental realities, of culture and family and community role models, of
assets and risks. Analyzing causes and effects, and understanding the links among
all these factors, requires separating them into subject areas, systems or knowledge
areas. That is how data are gathered and kept, professionals are trained, programs
are funded, budgets are made and services administered. But we must not lose sight
of the whole child.

Like an insurance company’s actuarial chart, it is possible to predict from “risk
factors” the likelihood of a child ending up stuck in the Cradle to Prison Pipeline.
Much research and Cass’s and Curry’s case studies show major risk factors to be:

  •  poverty, especially extreme poverty;
  •  family composition where single parents, teenage parents, alcohol- or substance-abusing parents, a parent in prison, a parent abandoning the home—all predict increased delinquency;
  •  lack of health care, from prenatal care for pregnant women to preventive screening for children and youth of all ages to detect illnesses that block learning,hearing, seeing or concentrating;
  •  babies born at low birthweight, which is a risk factor for later physical, developmental and learning problems;
  •  abuse or neglect during childhood that goes unnoticed or untreated and fueled by poverty;
  •  foster care placements when families break down (especially in families not related to the children) risk abuse, neglect, sexual exploitation, low self-esteem, anger and poor social relationships;
  •  poor school quality where not reading at grade level, failing or acting out are met with police intervention, and suspensions or expulsions leading to dropping out altogether;
  •  few timely and quality mental health program interventions in communities to provide care in a timely manner to prevent or interrupt negative behavior or remediate problems causing children to get into trouble;
  •  the juvenile justice system which cements many children’s sense of hopelessness and offers too few positive programs, too late, to change the Pipeline’s trajectory;
  • and  throughout all these major risk factors is the disparate treatment of children of color.

Research also shows that if a child has one or a few of these risk factors, while
potentially harmful, there’s a good chance that the child’s resiliency and some intervention
by a teacher, a counselor, a mentor, a relative, a pastor or some other adult
offering encouragement, assistance and guidance can save that child from falling into or
staying in the Pipeline. CDF’s Beat the Odds celebrations of and scholarships for
children overcoming unbelievable obstacles attest to the power of one caring adult in
a child’s life. But a young child exposed to six or more of these risk factors is ten times
as likely to commit a violent act by age 18 as one who experiences only one or a few
risk factors. In a hospital nursery, behind the glass of newborns in 2001, that one in
three Black boy babies and one in six Latino boy babies will end up in the Pipeline
and in prison is a national tragedy. Unless it is addressed head on, it will disempower the
Black and Latino communities and undermine family stability and child socialization.
The challenge for each of us and for the nation is to prevent it—for preventable it is.

Cradle to Prison Pipeline -3 Black Leaders address the mass incarceration of youth.

 During a meeting in December 2010, Black leaders gathered at CDF Haley Farm to discuss the problems Black youth face and promising approaches. Watch new videos from the convening where author Michelle Alexander addresses the devastating impact that the mass incarceration of Black men is having on communities and Judith Browne-Dianis of the Advancement Project discusses zero tolerance policies in schools.

This video is lengthy but worth it for the content value.

Cradle to Prison Pipeline – Children Born into Pipeline 2


I watched the flow of children through my courtroom. But it took some time for

me to actually understand the interplay (complicity, if you will) of two primary feeders

into the Pipeline: the juvenile justice system and the child welfare system. Let me

tell you about Frankie who first came before me at the age of 10 (now presumed to

have the capacity to commit a crime). He was charged with Assault 4 (a misdemeanor).

Frankie was born into the child welfare system. Removed from his mother at birth,

Frankie spent his first eight years moving from foster home to foster home, getting

angrier and more depressed. His angry outbursts landed him in a “therapeutic foster

home” placement for kids with behavioral problems. Of course once he was placed,

he continued to demonstrate his behavioral issues. He hit staff. The police were

called. He was arrested and charges were filed. It is clear that the therapeutic foster

home is using the courts to “enforce the rules” and provide much needed respite

care. But this created a criminal record for Frankie. Over the next five years, this pattern

repeats itself several times. I last saw Frankie six months ago. He presented on two

counts of Robbery 2 (felony charges). His lengthy criminal history (created from his

behavior in placement) counts to increase his score for the purpose of sentencing.

Frankie was facing 206–258 weeks in juvenile state “prison.” By the time he is

released, Frankie will be almost 18. He has literally been moved through the

Pipeline from the cradlenext stop, the adult prison system.

–Chief Judge Patricia Clark of the Juvenile

Division of King County Superior Court, Seattle, Washington

A Black boy born in 2001 has a 1 in 3 chance of going to prison in his
lifetime; a Latino boy a 1 in 6 chance; and a White boy a 1 in 17 chance.

Cradle to Prison Pipeline

This is excerpts from the Children’s Defense Fund report “America’s Cradle to Prison Pipeline Report” that documents the intersection of poverty and race that puts Black boys at one to three lifetime risk of going to prison.  Tens of thousands are sucked into the pipeline every year.

My blog will be dedicated to dispersing this information over the next month in digestible chunks.

“It is easier to build strong children than to fix broken men.”

– attributed to Frederick Douglass

Children Born into the Pipeline 1

Baby Eric

Eric came into the world on April 26, 2004, in Cincinnati, Ohio, and already is in the Pipeline to Prison before taking a single step or uttering a word. In early May, when he was two weeks old, he was a tiny brown bundle lying across the lap of his 19-year-old mother in the Wynton Terrace housing project on the north side of the city. She was staying temporarily in a unit rented by one of her sisters because the electricity and gas had been turned off in her aunt’s house, where she had gone with Eric and his brother, 19-month-old Tae, when she left the hospital. She doesn’t have a phone or child care or access to a car so “it’s kind of hard to do anything.” The closest store is ten blocks away. She said she would like to finish high school and get a job. She liked school but “I had a lot of problems. I was running away all the time. I wasn’t getting along with anybody,” she explained, describing ongoing fights between her and her siblings and her mother, who once called the police to take her to juvenile detention. She lived with the boys’ 26-year-old father until he punched her in the stomach when she was eight months pregnant with Eric. She called the police and he went to jail. “He didn’t get as much time as I thought because his lawyers said he had some kind of mental illness.” He does not have a job and has been in jail before.

At two weeks old, Eric should have all possible futures open to him in America, a culture that believes life outcome is determined by the individual alone. In reality, this infant boy already is not in the trajectory that leads to college or work; he’s at the beginning of the pathway to prison—or, if not incarceration, a life on the margins. If Eric is imprisoned 18 years from now, no one is likely to look at the risks he faced in his early years or the disadvantages of his childhood  circumstances. He will be another bad youth to be punished for his criminal acts. It will be too late then to think of what could have been done back when Eric lacked stimulation and proper nurturing at two weeks old or when he began having behavioral or emotional problems at school or when he fell behind, got suspended and dropped out, or when he received little positive attention or guidance from the adults in his community. It will be too late then to realize that interventions known to make a difference might well have neutralized the risks and put him on the path to a productive life.

Prayer warriors – pray for our boys!