Unstable families are not uncommon but for Black children, who are already at-risk, could be what puts them in the cradle to prison pipeline. A child being raised by Dad because mom is on drugs or mentally unfit to take care of the children or grandma has to step up because no one else can or will is another key factor in the pipeline. I know a man who had 6 children by his girlfriend and they were living together. Dad worked and mom at different times went to school or worked. Then tragedy struck, she was diagnosis with breast cancer. Fortunately, dad married mom before she died but now he has 6 children to raise alone. What are her children’s chances of not ending up in the pipeline?
Another example of an unstable family in the Black community is Lola (fictious name to protect the innocent.). Lola is a mental health patient raising her young children in the Black community in subsidized housing. The community ignores her walking the streets dressed in a t-shirt with her bra fastened on the outside and another t-shirt pulled over her hips as a skirt and her face covered in white powder. Lola is not a bad looking woman but her mental health status is obvious as she walks in the middle of the street ranting and chanting about things folks aren’t really listening to. What about the risk factor of her children?
Recently in my community head start has taken a hit due to economic conditions. Yes, head start, a program left-over from the era know as the “great society” promoted by President Johnson in the 1960’s. Two main goals of the Great Society social reforms were the elimination of poverty and racial injustice. High-quality early childhood education has the greatest positive effect on children from lower socioeconomic status, children who are at risk because of other circumstances, and children with disabilities and special needs (Stegelin, 2004). Recent brain research has verified the importance of cognitive and social development in the early years (Begley, 2000). Now, the lack of early education and enrichment will increase the chances of Black children especially Black males to end up in the cradle to prison to pipeline.
Who do you know at –risk? What would your new year resolution (2012) be for your community?